Siliguri, 15 October : The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) apprehended two individuals, one of whom is an official, on Saturday for their suspected involvement in a ‘passport scam.’ According to officials, the scam revolved around the issuance of passports using counterfeit documents.
On the same day, the CBI executed searches at 50 different locations in the states of West Bengal and Sikkim. This operation resulted in the identification and booking of 24 individuals, which included government officials allegedly implicated in the passport fraud.
In an official statement released on Saturday evening, the CBI stated, “We have dismantled a substantial passport racket operating in West Bengal and Sikkim. We arrested a senior superintendent of the Passport Seva Laghu Kendra (PSLK) in Gangtok, Sikkim, who was caught accepting a bribe of Rs 1.90 lakh from another individual. This individual, who worked as a passport agent, was also taken into custody.”
The CBI has registered a case against these 24 accused individuals, which includes a Deputy Passport Officer based in Kolkata and other public servants.
During the course of the raids, CBI detectives seized a sum of Rs 3.08 lakh in cash from the possession of the arrested PSLK official. As part of the crackdown on the passport fraud network, searches were carried out in various locations, including Kolkata, Siliguri, Darjeeling, Alipurduar, and Gangtok in Sikkim. An official commented, “Raids were conducted at the residences of the accused individuals, which included public servants, and a significant number of incriminating documents related to identity verification and the issuance of forged passports were confiscated.”
The CBI detectives continued their operations at the passport office in Kolkata, as well as locations in Salt Lake and Howrah.
In an unexpected turn, the central agency conducted a surprise raid at the home of an individual in Uluberia, Howrah district, during the early hours of Saturday. This individual, who was an employee of the passport office, was subjected to nearly six hours of questioning before being taken into custody by the CBI investigators.
The FIR (First Information Report) listed a total of 24 individuals, among them 16 officials who were allegedly involved in issuing passports to ineligible individuals based on fraudulent documents, including non-residents, in exchange for bribes.
It is well-established that obtaining passports involved significant sums of money being exchanged on the basis of falsified documents. Applicants were compelled to pay substantial fees to agents in order to secure these passports, with the illicit gains eventually finding their way to officials at the Passport Seva Kendra.
The Central Investigation Agency conducted a raid at the residence of an individual named Varun Singh Rathod, located at the Panighata intersection near Naxalbari, Siliguri, at approximately 3 am on a Saturday morning. Ongoing searches have been taking place at his residence since the morning.
According to local sources, a team of seven to ten officers is involved in this search operation. It is worth noting that Varun Singh Rathore has been implicated in passport fraud, and numerous individuals have allegedly paid substantial sums, amounting to lakhs, to obtain passports through his illicit activities.