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- Karnataka Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao’s son Ashwin and his associates ran an extortion racket
- They would threaten officials with ‘raids’ and demand money to stop them
- It is estimated that they made around Rs 200 crore before the lid was blown off the scam
- They used Rao’s office and residence to run this scam
- Ashwin and Syed Riyaz, the masterminds, are now in custody
How the scam unfolded
Though the scandal has been raging for over three months, Rao has hung on like a leach. The original Act of 1984 provided an iron-clad protection to the office of the Lokayukta, who could be removed only through an impeachment process.
The post of Lokayukta or ombudsman had spread terror among corrupt officials and politicians during Justice Santosh Hegde’s tenure. But Rao’s tenure, which started under the BJP government in 2013, was a complete let down.
While he maintained a very low profile in the first year, some of his officials, led by PRO Syed Riyaz, became hyperactive, opening a secret ‘back channel’ for wheeling and dealing.
Riyaz, a police sub-inspector, buttered his way to an out-of-turn promotion as joint commissioner at the instance of Rao. Riyaz roped in Ashwin, the Lokayukta’s middle-aged son, for all major deals, to give them an ‘official seal’.
Riyaz, Ashwin and their gang would make calls to senior officials and allegedly demand money to prevent ‘raids’.
The gang did not spare even high-ranking secretaries. According to some estimates, the gang had struck over 160 deals, pocketing at least Rs 200 crore, before an upright executive engineer, MN Krishnamurthy, blew the whistle in May when asked to cough up Rs 1 crore.
How the perpetrators were exposed
Krishnamurthy contacted Lokayukta SP Sonia Narang, who quietly made enquiries on her own and dashed off a letter to the registrar.
When Rao also tried to brush things under the carpet, Narang, disregarding her seniors’ counsel, filed an FIR in the High Grounds police station, naming Ashwin as the prime accused.
Rao wrote to the Siddaramaiah government to appoint a special investigation team (SIT), in order to buy time, and his request was accepted.
But the SIT, led by ADGP Kamal Pant, quickly got into the act and arrested three middlemen, before nabbing Ashwin from his father’s apartment in Hyderabad earlier this month. Four others, including Riyaz and V Bhaskar, an accused who has spilled the beans, are also in custody.
The bail application of Ashwin, which came up for hearing before the special Lokayukta court of Justice Bopaiah on 17 August, was rejected. He was remanded to judicial custody till 27 August.
It has now emerged that between January 2014 and June 2015, Rao ‘closed’ around 1,500 cases against officials who were facing various charges of misuse of public funds, sanctioning illegal construction and so on.
Social activists, including 97-year-old Gandhian HS Doreswamy, have expressed apprehensions about so many cases being closed ‘hurriedly’. While they do concede that these could be frivolous complaints which need to be closed, they are demanding a thorough enquiry into the ‘file closer’ in the Lokayukta.