A senior officer of Assam Rifles, along with his eight subordinates were arrested for allegedly stealing gold bars from a smuggler. Mizoram police arrested the commandant of the Aizawl-based 39th battalion of the Assam Rifles Col. Jasjit Singh for his alleged involvement in the highway robbery.
According to the police, Singh ordered his men, armed with advanced weapons to ambush a gold smuggler carrying a consignment of gold worth 14.5 crores in the southern outskirts of Aizawl city on the night of 14 December last year. Sources said the gold was being smuggled from Myanmar.The alleged smuggler, whom they had allowed to go, had filed the complaint with the police.
The incident came to light when Lalnunfela, the driver of the vehicle filed an FIR at the Aizawl police station on April 21 ,alleging his vehicle was robbed by armed people from the 39 Assam Rifles. He said the men who stopped his car, refused to identify themselves and searched the car. He and his two companions were made to wait outside. During the search, they found the 52 gold bars in the gear box, worth Rs. 14.5 crore.
The complainant said he was threatened at gunpoint by the robbers, and was asked to keep his mouth shut. He also said that his friends prompted him to lodge a complaint to the local police. The seized gold, however, was not deposited in the treasury, government sources said.
The eight Assam Rifles jawans, accused of participating in the robbery and now in the police custody,reportedly told their interrogators that they committed the crime after receiving orders from their battalion commandant.
Colonel Singh allegedly refused to cooperate with the investigation and moved for anticipatory bail. But he was arrested today after his bail plea was rejected. He is in the custody of Mizoram police now.
Assam rifles, the oldest paramilitary force in India, had lost its legacy of goodwill, after the Tehelka magazine conducted a sting operation named ‘Operation Hill Top’ to expose the officers who were involved in large level corruption.
The sting operation, conducted by then Tehelka Journalist Shyju Maruthampilly which was published last year, exposed four officers including the Director General and Additional Director-General and the Chief Engineer of the force. They were shown in the video as accepting money as bribe. The officials collected bribes as part of the tenders through which construction projects were envisioned under the annual budget were implemented. They used to ensure their share of money every time a proposal moves from one table to another. The contractors who pay bribe reveal that for any project, 30 percent of its cost goes straight into the officials’ pockets.
The exposé led to an inquiry on this issue and the probe team submitted a summary of evidence. But the inquiry, which had been conducted by the Assam rifles and is headed by the accused officer himself, was challenged by a group of retired army officers in the Delhi high court. The high court has directed the ministry of home affairs to conduct a probe by national agencies which led to a CBI inquiry on the issue.
Shyju Maruthumpilly, who now works with Narada News said he has got a summons from an inspector of CBI to provide information on the case. A prime witness in the case, Maruthumpilly has been asked to be present at the CBI office in Shillong on 12 May. The latest arrests corroborated the fact that the oldest paramilitary force is corrupt and the sting operation endorses this fact.