IMA scam: CBI books 2 Karnataka-cadre IPS officers

IMA scam: CBI books two senior Karnataka-cadre IPS officers

Hemant Nimbalkar. (DH Photo)

The CBI has booked senior Karnataka-cadre IPS officers Hemant Nimbalkar and Ajay Hilori, along with eight others, in connection with the Rs 4,000-crore I-Monetary Advisory (IMA) scam, in which gullible investors were allegedly cheated in the name of Islamic banking, officials said on Tuesday.

The move came after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) received an approval from the Karnataka government to proceed with its investigation into the alleged role of 1998-batch IPS officer Nimbalkar, then posted as the Inspector General (CID-EOW), and 2008-batch IPS officer Hilori, then posted as the DCP, Bengaluru East, they said.

Along with the two officers, the agency has named Inpsector M Ramesh and Sub-Inspector Gowri Shankar, both then posted at the Commercial Street police station in Bengaluru, DySP (CID-EOW) EB Sridhara, besides the company, IMA, its founder Mansoor Khan and three of its other directors in a fresh case.

The agency had approached the state government, seeking permission to proceed against the two officers, who were in senior positions in the Karnataka police, and had allegedly helped Khan, the officials said.

In an order issued on January 7, the Karnataka government accorded the sanction under section 17(A)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018 to the CBI to "conduct any inquiry or investigation into the allegations" against the two officers, they added.

The amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act has made it mandatory to get a sanction from the government concerned before initiating a probe against a government servant.

The CBI has alleged that since 2016, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) repeatedly raised red flags on the activities of the IMA group, which was allegedly raising illegal deposits from investors promising lucrative returns in the name of Islamic banking practices.

Ramesh had also received a reference in this regard through the DCP, Bengaluru East, but did not conduct a proper enquiry and closed the case on August 29, 2016, the agency has alleged in its FIR.

In his comments on closing the reference, Ramesh had mentioned that the company was operating within the rules and there were no deviations. He had also said that he could not take any action against the company under the Karnataka Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishment (KPID) Act, 2004 in the absence of a complaint from any depositor, the FIR says.

The report was rejected by the RBI and the DCP was asked to re-look into the matter, but he closed the reference just before his transfer, saying it was dealt with by the CID-EOW, the CBI has alleged.

In between, complaints were made against the company and the Karnataka Principal Secretary (Revenue) had also asked the police to probe the case, but Inpsector Ramesh, Sub-Inspector Gowri Shankar and Hilori did not take any action, the agency has said.

The three officers allegedly conspired among themselves to favour IMA group entities and its MD and CEO Khan, abused their official positions by not taking appropriate action against the group entities and in a quid pro quo arrangement, received illegal gratification, the FIR says.

On July 4, 2018, the Karnataka Director General of Police (DGP) directed the IGP, CID-EOW for investigating the IMA under the KPID Act, for which E B Sridhara, DySP (CID-EOW), was appointed as an inquiry officer, who gave a clean chit to the company on January 1, 2019.

Nimbalkar, the then IG (CID-EOW), forwarded the report to the DGP, asserting that the inquiry did not find any wrongdoing on the part of the company.

The activities of the IMA group continued unhindered, which facilitated the collection of hundreds of crores of rupees from lakhs of innocent people, the agency has alleged.

It has found in its probe so far that more than Rs 4,000 crore of deposits were illegally raised from thousands of innocent investors by IMA group entities, but the Karnataka CID gave a clean chit to the company and its promoter-director, Khan.

As on date, over Rs 3,000 crore are outstanding in the form of principal amount and interest in respect of 76,000 investors, the CBI has alleged.

It has already filed two chargesheets against 22 accused, including the company, its sister concerns, directors, chartered accountants and middlemen.

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