The Defence Ministry has asked the CBI to conduct a probe into the alleged illegal immigration scam involving some senior Army officers. The racket came to light earlier this month when four persons were detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport while trying to leave on official Army passports.
The CBI, in response to a letter from Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, has asked him to file a complaint before it so that an FIR could be lodged, official sources said on Tuesday adding the investigating agency also sought all records pertaining to the case. The CBI also said no parallel probe should be conducted as it would affect their investigations.
Sources said the four detained persons were carrying official white passports issued to the Army headquarters band for a performance in Germany. An Army soldier Suresh **** had allegedly prepared these travel documents and sold them for nearly Rs 50,000 each.
During investigations, **** said he had prepared the passports in the past as well, it was learnt.
Sources said **** had alleged he had prepared diplomatic passports illegally for a senior official and his wife during their visit to Malaysia and also named a colonel posted in Delhi.
While the Army informed the Defence Ministry that it was carrying out investigations into the case and would submit a final report soon as it was a 'single' case involving a soldier, the Ministry refused and ordered a thorough CBI probe into the case as it suspected involvement of some senior officials of the Army and the Ministry of External Affairs.
According to initial findings of the Army probe, 37 personnel were authorised to go to Germany. An additional 10 forms for standby personnel were also filled. These standby passports were supposed to be returned to the External Affairs Ministry.
However, sources claimed that photographs of non-Army personnel were affixed to four of these standby passports which were verified and signed by a senior Army officer. After the band left for Germany, the extra passports were not returned to the MEA.
The CBI booked a senior army official and the wife of a Lieutenant Colonel for allegedly misusing diplomatic passports, and a junior officer on the charge of using official passports for human trafficking. The FIR was registered against Brigadier HPS Bedi, posted in Ceremonial and Welfare Directorate of the Army, Harleen Chadda, wife of Lt Col KS Chadda (in the same directorate) and Lance Naik Suresh **** under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Indian Passports Act. The Pioneer had broken the story when four persons were arrested from the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA). They were trying to go abroad on Army official's passports. The CBI registered a case following a complaint made by the Defence Ministry requesting the investigating agency to probe into the matter.
"In view of the seriousness of the incident and the likely nexus between Army personnel and criminals dealing with illegal immigration, CBI is requested to register an FIR and take appropriate legal action against the perpetrators of the crime," a letter from an Under Secretary of the Defence Ministry said. In its FIR, the CBI has alleged that Brigadier Bedi had allegedly furnished wrong information about his salary for obtaining a diplomatic passport, official sources said. According to rules, an officer of the rank of Major General and above are entitled to a diplomatic travel document.
The wife of the Lt Col was booked on the charge of forging documents and changing the photographs from the diplomatic passport, they said. Giving the background of the case, the CBI said that in October this year, an Indian Army band went to Germany to take part in the 13th Berlin Military Music Festival. The team consisted of 42 personnel including two officers. Besides, there were 10 reserve personnel in the team who did not undertake the journey but official passports were issued to all of them for undertaking the foreign visit.
Earlier this year, the Army Band had visited Chile and Malaysia for which official passports were issued. According to initial investigations, the complaint alleged that ****, who had gone to Germany along with the military band, abused his official position and conspired with some other public servants and private persons, fraudulently obtained official passports and diverted the same to other people for illegal migration, they said.
The Army authorities have recovered 44 passports from **** and Rs 1.2 lakh in cash along with the pages of Demi Official letter pads of senior Army officers, the FIR alleged. The Defence Ministry, while turning down an Army request for an internal inquiry, had sought a thorough CBI probe into the incident.