Constable Sudhir Sapte and ASI Surendra Shivade. Pics/Hanif Patel
The two policemen, who had opened the Pandora's box that is the multi-thousand-crore house-of-cards scam in Vasai-Virar, were, in an abrupt move, given punishment postings at the Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar (MBVV) police headquarters earlier this month. While a senior police officer alleged that ASI Surendra Shivade and constable Sudhir Sapte had been transferred over serious allegations of corruption, an activist attributed the move to the pressure created by the builder mafia who have been having sleepless nights ever since the duo brought the scam to light.
Shivade and Sapte were attached to the Virar police station. The multi-thousand-crore house of cards scam was exposed only because they had worked fearlessly. Senior police officers were kept in the loop when they were doing the groundwork before the matter was brought to the public domain through a press conference," said an officer attached to Virar police station.
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Deputy Commissioner of Police Suhas Bavche said, "The wife of an accused had made an allegation of corruption against these two policemen. So, we are conducting an inquiry into the matter."
Additional Commissioner of Police Shrikant Pathak said, "Since a DCP-level enquiry is underway against these two policemen, it was important to transfer them to the police headquarters."
A gang of housing conmen had been luring potential home-buyers and selling them flats which were constructed on fake commencement certificates (CCs) and occupancy certificates (OCs) right under the nose of Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC). Many real estate agents became builders and chawl mafiosos because the civic officials failed to take action against them in time. The bogus builders did not give two hoots about the government norms and conditions before building towers on agricultural as well as collector land. In a bid to make their illegal structures genuine, the bogus builders had got the fake CCs/OCs made and secured RERA numbers to sell the flats to gullible people.
Sources in the police department told mid-day that multiple complaints were made by the affected families at different police stations in the Vasai-Virar area. "But the house of cards scam was opened only because Shivade, Sapte and other team members worked fearlessly on the allegations and went deep inside the racket to blow the lid of this massive scandal," said an officer.
A social activist Rahul Singh said, "The families of the accused will definitely make allegations against the policemen who work fearlessly. The untimely transfers of fearless cops speak volumes. The intention behind the abrupt transfer of these two policemen is questionable as the investigation into the multi-crore housing scam will now be stonewalled."
Singh added, "Allegations are not valid reasons for the transfer of policemen; it should be supported by concrete evidence. This is the reward honest policemen get when they work passionately to expose a big racket involving corrupt government officials. This is a sort of punishment for them. Their abrupt transfers will discourage other honest policemen from working passionately to expose any such rackets."
"The hard work of these two policemen made many bogus builders and corrupt civic babus uncomfortable, as many layers in this multi-crore scam were yet to be unravelled. Their transfers have been made just to protect the corrupt faces in the civic department, as VVCMC officials did nothing when the unauthorised constructions were rampant in the area; but, these two policemen had gone all the way to fearlessly stir up a hornet's nest and expose the startling modus operandi of the bogus builders and their nexus with the government officials who protected them while they were minting money. They have been transferred under the pressure of the builder mafia," Singh alleged.
After receiving brickbats from all quarters, the VVCMC Commissioner Anilkumar Pawar constituted a 10-member enquiry committee to probe the matter. "Where is the report of the enquiry committee? Are they even probing the case? Why has the status of the time-bound enquiry not been made public by the VVCMC?" wondered Singh.
Sources have told mid-day that the scammers had approached Bombay High Court to obtain bail but they have been asked to approach the sessions court to seek relief. "Multiple FIRs have been registered against the scammers at different police stations in the jurisdiction of MBVV police.
These police stations are taking the custody of these accused, who were arrested initially by Virar police," said an officer. Despite several attempts, the two officers refused to talk about their transfers.