Bangalore top cops acted as 'recovery agents' for minister's son, finds probe
Two top Bangalore police officials accused of acting as recovery agents'' in an alleged suicide note left behind by a businessman, Ripon Kishor Malhotra, 54, two weeks ago were reportedly attempting to recover money invested in one of Malhotra's firms by the son of a veteran Congress politician from Karnataka.
The son of a Congress minister from Davangere had unofficially informed the top police officials about being cheated to the tune of Rs 10 lakh by Malhotra, and the police then attempted to recover the money, said officials of the Central Crime Branch (CCB) of the Bangalore police familiar with the investigation.
Malhotra, accused of cheating small investors who invested in stocks through his brokerage firms of nearly Rs 50 crore, had 23 different firms — including luxury goods company Rodeo Drive — and even travelled as part of former President Prathiba Patil's business delegation to South Korea and Mongolia in July 2011.
He reportedly killed himself at his home in Bangalore on June 29. Three days later, a suicide note surfaced, addressed to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, accusing Bangalore Police Commissioner Jyothi Prakash Mirji and Central Crime Branch head D Devaraj of acting as "recovery agents'' for his clients and demanding a bribe of Rs 7 crore.
While dozens of businessmen from the Davangere region and their wives are shareholders in some of the ventures run by Malhotra, there is no official record linking the Congress minister's son to the companies, either as a shareholder or investor in stocks through Malhotra's Rippsons Shares Pvt Ltd and Rippsons Equity Solutions Pvt Ltd companies.
CCB sources, however, said it was a call from the minister's son that mobilised the Bangalore commissioner's office and the CCB to pursue Malhotra in the days before his death. On June 26, Malhotra was questioned by CCB officials at the CCB office. Two of his company's officials were questioned and brought before the police commissioner on June 28.
Officially, the police claimed to have cracked down on Malhotra on the basis of a complaint filed against him in the Whitefield police station in Bangalore in February this year by a businessman, Anil Reddy, who alleged that he had been cheated of Rs 25 lakh. The case was transferred to the CCB in April this year.
In his alleged suicide note, Malhotra has not named the client at whose behest the police pursued him. "Your commissioner is acting like a sub-inspector or constable to recover six lakhs...Your commissioner, whose duty it is to keep law and order, is acting as commission or recovery agent with his team of DCP and inspectors,'' he said.
Siddaramaiah has ordered an inquiry by the Criminal Investigation Department of the state police. The suicide note has been sent for forensic analysis in order to establish its veracity.
Both Mirji and Devaraj have been shunted out. Mirji has claimed that he did not know Malhotra and had never spoken to him. Devaraj has said the police followed due process in the investigations against Malhotra.
"We have given the investigation to senior police officer P K Garg. A deadline of one month has been set for the investigation,'' said DGP, CID, Bipin Gopalkrishna.
The Malhotra case has kicked up a controversy, as there are standing orders within the Karnataka police department and directives from the Karnataka High Court that the police must not engage in settlement of disputes of civil nature but should follow a legal process of recovery through the courts.
Since taking over, the new Bangalore police commissioner, Raghavendra Auradkar, has assured that the police will not engage in civil dispute settlements or such recovery of dues.
A section of the police, however, feels that the focus in the case has been skewed on account of the alleged suicide note. "The perpetrator of the offence here was Malhotra. The victims are people like the minister's son and others who invested with him,'' said a top police official.