NEW DELHI, April 20 - Surrendered ULFA cadres, cops, a tea baron, a local journalist are all allegedly part of what is emerging as a crime-thriller-like conspiracy that saw them decamping with Rs 300 crore in cash stashed away in a tea garden in Rani near Guwahati.
The case, which is already in the Supreme Court, today took a fresh turn when the main petitioner, Manoj Kumar Kaushal, who was a part of military intelligence, revealed before the media the names of those involved in the siphoning off the loot. He alleged before newsmen today that the main conspirator was one Hitesh Kalita. He identified the others as Dinesh, Manju Orang, Mrinal Das, Subash Kalita alias Bolin Kalita and Binoy Kalita, among others, besides a few Assam Police officials.
The Supreme Court last Wednesday asked the Centre to look into the retired Army officer�s petition to hold an inquiry into the alleged disappearance of unaccountable cash to the tune of Rs 300 crore, 300 kg gold and some other articles from a temple in Rani.
Kaushal said the wealth was allegedly stolen by some locals in 2014 and the police have refused to inquire into the incident.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, directed Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh to look into Kaushal�s petition though it did not issue a formal notice for a response. The matter is coming up for further hearing on May 6, when the Centre is likely to file its response.
According to Kaushal, the unaccounted money, gold and two AK 47 rifles were stashed in a cellar in the Kali temple in Rani Tea Garden. Kaushal told the Bench that the petitioner received information about the wealth from one of his informers who worked with him when he was posted with the intelligence unit in Assam.
The money was hidden by the then president of the Tea Garden Association in Assam, who allegedly collected money from owners of tea gardens on behalf of ULFA. Kaushal said the president and his wife were murdered under mysterious circumstances in 2012.
Kaushal informed the Indian Army and as it was about to recover the treasure, some locals stole it.
The officer said he approached officials in Guwahati with his complaint against the robbery but there was no action. He also wrote letters to the Prime Minister�s Office and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
He claimed that an informer told him two years ago about the treasure hidden in a vault below the idol. An inquiry revealed that it was lying unclaimed after the mysterious deaths of owner of the garden Mridul Bhattacharya and his wife.
After being informed about it, the Army decided to recover it on June 1, 2014. But when soldiers reached the spot, they were shocked to find a gaping hole and the treasure missing.
Kaushal reported that he visited the spot later, took photographs and gathered intelligence on possible suspects.
Kaushal has named 13 people, whose call records showed they were in touch with each other since the time the theft likely took place, and were diverting huge amounts of money through their bank accounts.
�It is clear that these people hatched the conspiracy and took the treasure out by digging a hole from outside the temple, which is clearly depicted in the photographs,� Kaushal alleged.