MSCB scam: 150 shortlisted for quizzing

Mumbai: Over 150 persons, mostly officials belonging to the affiliates of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB), have been short listed for questioning as the probe by the Mumbai police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) into the Rs25,000 crore bank swindle gathers steam.

This is being done to bolster evidence against the scam’s main culprits, including several top-rung politicians, at whose behest the scam was perpetrated through ground level officials.

As per the Maharashtra Coperative Society Act, only the board of directors can be held responsible for financial irregularities in the bank.

A top EOW source told FPJ on Thursday that the questioning of the officials, working in Seva Sahakari Samsthas (SSS) — which are the grassroot units for the MSCB for disbursement of loans (and recovery) at village level — hold the key to establish the money trail in the scam.

“We are in the process of recording their statement, which is crucial in quantifying the default by each of the beneficiaries in the scam,” sources said.

As per the allegations, loans had been disbursed ag­a­­inst non-existing colaterals and were never recovered by the bank, thereby not only causing losses to the bank, but making the accused richer.

Notably, the embezzlement had spread across 34 districts in the state and continued for over 15 years until an audit by the National Agricultural Bank for Rural Development (NABARD) had brought to the fore the breach of the RBI guidelines and banking rules in distributing loans to sugar factories and spinning mills by key bank office bearers.

There were serious lapses in the repayment or recovery of the disbursed loans, the audit had pointed out. The suspects, including several key political figures from various political parties, were complicit in causing an estimated Rs1,000 crore loss to the bank, it is alleged.

Subsequent to the NABARD findings and a chargesheet filed by a quasi-judicial inquiry commission under the Maharashtra Coperative Societies (MCS) Act — which squarely blames the leaders holding key positions in the bank for causing the losses — activist Surendra Arora had filed a complaint with the EOW for an investigation, in 2015.

Last month, the High Court had directed the EOW to register an FIR and investigate the scam, stating that there were credible evidence against all those mentioned as accused in the complaint.

Following the HC direction, an FIR was lodged at the MRA Marg police station and a special investigation team (SIT) was formed by EOW under the supervisoion of an ACP level official to probe the case. Though more than 79 persons had been mentioned in the complaint, the FIR does not contain any name, pending investigation.

Meanwhile, EOW sources said the political big guns (who are suspects in the scam) are likely to be summoned for questioning following the completion of the forthcoming state assembly election, next month. This is being done to avoid the possibility of any of them making a political capital during the electioneering season.

By Debasish Panigrahi