Senior IAS Officer BM Vijay Shankar, Prime Accused in IMA Ponzi Scam, Hangs Himself at Bengaluru Residence

D P Satish

A senior IAS officer from Karnataka, whom the CBI wanted to prosecute in the Rs 4,000-crore IMA ponzi scam, allegedly died by suicide at his house in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening. According to reports, he was found hanging at his residence in South Bengaluru.

BM Vijay Shankar was one of the prime accused in the financial fraud case involving I Monetary Advisory Pvt Ltd (IMA), which along with associated firms had lured unsuspecting investors by offering higher returns.

Vijay Shankar was arrested by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed during the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government, last July on charges of accepting a bribe of Rs 1.5 crore from IMA's Mansoor Khan. He was later released on bail.

According to sources, the 59-year-old IAS officer was fighting depression after being jailed.

After the suicide was reported, the police rushed to Vijay Shankar's house to conduct an investigation.

The police confirmed Vijay Shankar was found dead at his residence at Jayanagar.

The Ponzi scheme conned tens of thousands of investors, mostly from the Muslim community, in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It promised investors ‘halal-compliant’ investments – which are in accordance with Shariah as it did not use the deposited money for giving out loans or for any business related to liquor, entertainment or other ‘haram’ practices.

A Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) officer earlier, Vijay Shankar was promoted to the IAS. He was Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru Urban district when the scam broke.

The BJP government in the state had handed over the probe to the CBI in January this year.

The central probe agency recently sought the state government's permission to prosecute Vijay Shankar and two others in connection with the case after interrogating them. The agency has also sought the state government's permission to prosecute two senior IPS officers in connection with the case.

A CBI probe had shown that IMA group entities headed by Khan had raised illegal and unauthorised deposits in an alleged dishonest and fraudulent manner from innocent investors to the tune of over Rs 4,000 crore, raising eyebrows of the income tax department and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The central bank had written to the state government to probe the functioning of the IMA. Subsequently, the government asked Vijay Shankar to submit a report.

Vijay Shankar assigned the task of preparing the report to the assistant commissioner of Bengaluru district LC Nagaraj. It is alleged that Vijay Shankar and Nagaraj took Rs 1.5 crore through a village accountant Manjunath to hush up Khan's alleged wrongdoings.

The case came to light when Khan fled to Dubai leaving behind a video message saying he was killing himself because of "corruption in the state and central governments".

Khan was arrested on July 19 last year on his arrival in New Delhi. Along with him, seven directors of the IMA, a corporator, and a few others were arrested by the SIT.

(With inputs from Revathi Rajeevan and PTI)

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