The Enforcement Directorate (ED) searched 22 places in six districts of Uttar Pradesh on Friday in connection with a case of money laundering against some educational institutions that used government scholarships for students from minority, Dalit, and tribal communities in a dishonest way.
The agency said that its investigations have shown that these institutions have used scholarships worth Rs 75 crore. Some of these scholarships were taken from the bank accounts of seven-year-olds.
The ED says that the central and state governments offer scholarships to help SC, ST, and physically disabled candidates get an education. Also, some scholarships are for people from minority groups and students from poorer areas (EWS).
“An investigation by the ED showed that these colleges and institutes used the bank accounts of children aged 7 to 12 and adults aged 45 and older to get more and more scholarship money. So far, investigations have shown that these institutions opened about 3,000 of these accounts using documents belonging to different people. “Most of the accounts are in the names of simple villagers who don’t even know about these bank accounts and have never received any scholarships to this day,” the ED said in a statement.
ED searches also found that several agents, including one named Ravi Prakash Gupta, were working on the case. It said that Mohd. Sahil Aziz, Amit Kumar Maurya, Tanveer Ahmad, and Jitendra Singh, all of whom worked for FINO Payment Bank, helped pull off the whole scam.
“The scam was done by taking advantage of how easy it was to open an account on the FINO Payment Bank platform. All of the bad guys’ bank accounts were opened at FINO branches in Lucknow and Mumbai. The institutes also used FINO agents for both electronic transfers of scholarship funds and cash withdrawals. Then, the money from the crimes was moved to different bank accounts that the owners of the institutes and their related entities and people controlled, the ED said in a statement.
The rules say that the scholarship money has to be put straight into the students’ bank accounts. But, the defaulting institutions went around the rules and made plans to take the account kits directly from the agents of FINO bank, the ED investigation found.
“Further, with the active help and support of FINO agents, institutes made plans to take undated, pre-signed blank check books from these accounts and use the scholarship money for their own purposes. “In some cases, the institutes and their employees were able to get the IDs and passwords that were given to FINO bank agents by the bank and use them illegally. They were also able to use Micro ATMs that were given by the bank on the institutes’ property,” ED said.
During the searches, the agency got a lot of SIM cards and stamps and seals from different places.
“So far, the investigations have shown that the institutes and colleges were likely involved in forging and making up different documents. During the searches, several pieces of evidence and records that were linked to money laundering and were in the names of suspects, their family members, and their friends were found and seized under the PMLA, 2002. During the searches, cash worth Rs 36.51 lakh and $956 in foreign currency were also found and taken,” the agency said.
According to the ED, searches were done at the following places: S S Institute of Management, Mampur, Lucknow; Hygia College of Pharmacy, Lucknow; Hygia Institute of Pharmacy/Central Institute of Pharmacy, Lucknow; Lucknow Institute of Management and Education, Lucknow; Dr Om Prakash Gupta Institute of Management and Technology, Farrukhabad; Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Foundation and Jivika College of Pharmacy, Hardoi; R P Inter College, Bhat
The ED said that I.H. Jafri runs and runs the Hygia group of colleges, Shivam Gupta runs the OP Gupta Institute, Praveen Kumar Chauhan runs the SS Institute, and Ram Gupta runs Jivika College.