10 cars, 26 properties: Rs 118 cr, and counting
ACB busts govt official worth 60,000% his income, says it’s just the tip of the iceberg
At a time when multi-crore scams have become commonplace, the name Nitish Thakur doesn’t quite ring a bell. But the Deputy Collector from Sindhudurg, who was raided by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday, may well emerge as one of the biggest graft catches in the country thus far.
After preliminary investigations, based mainly on discreet inquiries, the ACB has estimated that Thakur owns assets and properties worth Rs 118 crore. Officers said that this figure, already several thousand times his income, is certain to increase once the raid is concluded sometime on Thursday. His last-drawn salary was Rs 30,000 in 2006, when he served as an Officer on Special Duty at Sir JJ Hospital before he mysteriously stopped turning up for work. The 175 ACB officers involved in the raid have already uncovered 10 highend cars, including a Range Rover, an Audi, a BMW, and a Honda CRV. They have also found 26 properties spread across Mumbai, Alibaug, Thane and Raigarh, including a flat worth Rs 1.75 crore in Sapphire building, Vile Parle; two flats in Swapnashil building purchased for Rs 9.5 cr; another apartment in Ashirwad Society, Andheri, worth Rs 1 cr; a bungalow in Borivli (West) worth Rs 4 crores; an apartment worth Rs 1 cr in MHB Colony, Borivli; a restaurant worth Rs 1 crore in Vazira Naka; two apartments worth Rs 2 cr in Thakur Village, Kandivli; two beachfacing plots in Alibaug worth Rs 23 cr; two farm houses in Alibaugh worth Rs 6 cr; nine apartments and two offices in Alibaug worth Rs 10 cr; and two shops worth Rs 1.25 cr in Alibaug.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said an officer who was a part of the raid. “A lot more will be uncovered over the next few days as we finish combing through his properties. By our early estimate, his total worth is 60,215 per cent of his legal income. This number, too, may rise.”
The drama started at 7 am when two dozen officers reached Thakur’s Vile Parle residence in the Swapnashil building, where he owns a 3,000-square-feet duplex flat and another 1,600-sq-ft apartment. The officers knocked on the door of his duplex flat but got no response. When they called on his cell phone, Thakur told them that they had no right to arrest him without a clearance from the government, and hung up.
“We knew he was in the house because we had been keeping a tab on his cell phone location. We thought he was buying time to destroy evidence,” said a senior member of the raiding party.
After trying to convince him to open the door for an hour, the cops decided to storm in. With the help of a welder, they finally entered the apartment in the B-wing of the society at around noon. Though the house had electronic items, clothes, and a fully stocked kitchen, neither Thakur nor his family members were inside.
The officers then broke into Thakur’s other apartment in the Awing of the society and found him sitting on a sofa. Apart from Thakur, the ACB has booked his brother Nilesh, mother Chaya, and his wife Minal, who were all accused of acting as fronts for his ill-gotten wealth.
Starting at 12:30 pm, the sleuths started collecting documents and goods from room to room. At the time of going to print, the raid was still going on, with some of the objects recovered so far including three watches worth Rs 20 lakh, two diamond bracelets worth Rs 6 lakh, three music systems worth Rs 7 lakhs, an imported 74-inch LED TV worth Rs 22 lakh, six crystal busts worth Rs 18 lakh, 11 pairs of imported shoes worth Rs 35,000 each, a jacuzzi worth Rs 9 lakh, and 100 tolas of gold.
The most remarkable discovery, however, was details of a company called Acecard Infrasol Pvt Ltd, in which Thakur has an 80 per cent stake, with his mother and brother holding the remaining 20 per cent. According to documents with ACB, the company had started with capital of Rs 10 lakh in 2008, but within a few months had had opened fixed deposits worth Rs 30 crore in two separate banks.
In less than two years, the company’s bank account showed that it earned Rs 57 crore. Investigators have also found fixed deposits worth Rs 11 crore in the name of another one of his firms, Siddhivinayak Enterprises. The brochure of his group of companies, under the banner of Lucky Angel Group, claims they are a Rs 300-crore group The companies, according to the brochure, are mainly into real estate, power, and hospitality.
The sleuths said that they had not been able to track all his bank accounts so far. But during the raid they found 11 electronic lockers, which hadn’t be opened until late evening.
“This is just what we could find during our inquiries. From his house, we have recovered several documents pertaining to plots and other properties that we did not know about. We will study them and find out more about him,” said KS Hegaje, deputy superintendent of ACB, who investigated the case.
HOW HE GOT RICH
Investigators believe that Thakur amassed his wealth by misusing his position as a deputy collector with state revenue department. He joined service in 1988 and some of his postings included deputy collector in Raigadh district, deputy collector in SRA, personal secretary to state housing minister, and officer on special duty at JJ Hospital, among others.
In all his postings, he was accused of some wrongdoing or the other, and was found guilty in a number of inquiries were ordered against him. For example, during his stint as deputy collector in Raigadh, he was accused of tampering with land records and forcing his subordinates to put out-of-turn stamps on land-related documents.
In another case, he was accused of disallowing the former chairman of a Panchayat Samiti from contesting elections on the grounds that she had crossed the age limit. Inquiry revealed that Thakur had done that to favour another candidate. On the basis of findings, elections had to be held all over again.
In yet another case in Raigadh, Thakur pocketed an award of Rs 29 lakhs announced for a farmer and never gave it to him. This, too, was proved in an inquiry ordered by collector.
As deputy collector in SRA, he was accused of wrongly classified a huge piece of land as a slum pocket, and the charge was upheld after an inquiry.
Then, in 2006, as an Officer on Special Duty at Sir JJ Hospital, he stopped reporting to work without asking for leave. It was soon after this that he floated Lucky Angel Group, which, took up the management of several old buildings. The company’s job was to convince the residents to allow redevelopment and get sanctions from government departments. Once everything was ready, it would rope in developers to start work.
No action was initiated against Thakur until 2011. It was only when he was arrested on charges of extortion by the Mumbai Crime Branch for threatening one of his partners, that he was suspended for the first time.
His cousins, whom he had allegedly defrauded, filed a complaint against him with ACB. When cops started investigating Thakur, he approached Bombay High Court alleging harassment. But in July last year, the HC asked the ACB to complete the investigation within four months.