‘Accused have been running the racket for the past few years’

The Central Crime Branch (CCB), Bangalore, is probing into the role of police personnel in a passport racket unearthed by a sting operation carried out by a regional television channel.

A senior police officer, who is supervising the investigation, said that a gang of touts-based in Chickballapur town near here had managed to procure passports for its clients by submitting fake documents. But, the CCB is convinced that the racket could not have flourished without the connivance of the jurisdictional police, who verify addresses and criminal antecedents, if any, of applicants.

Since police verification is a crucial aspect of the process, not only the police constable working on the field but also the senior officers could be pulled up for the lapses, the investigating officer said.

The investigation by the CCB officials has revealed that the kingpin of the racket identified as Khaleel, head of a dargah in Chickballapur, and his associates, Mujahid and Chand Pasha, were running the racket for the past few years.

Though the complaint alleged that officials from the Regional Passport Office are involved in the racket, Regional Passport Officer K.J. Srinivasa denied the charge and said that the CCB had not summoned or questioned any officials from his office.

Meanwhile, passport officials said that the 35 passports issued for applicants from Chickballapur town since January 2013 are being scrutinised.

The police verification is generally carried out by the constable of the jurisdictional police station of the applicant.

The Station House In-charge, who is generally of the rank of Inspector, forwards the verification with a recommendation to the Superintendent of Police in a district.

“But, it is the Superintendent of Police who finally clears or rejects the verification before uploading the information with the Regional Passport Office. In most cases, he goes by the recommendation of the Inspector, who, in turn, depends on the constable for the physical verification,” a passport official said.

The CCB had earlier sought details of 61 passports issued to applicants from across the State.

“Of these, four, including the one involved in the sting operation, had submitted fake documents. We had issued notices to the applicants seeking an explanation. Further action will be taken based on their response and police opinion on the verification,” the sources said.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police S. Murugan, who is heading the Central Crime Branch wing, refused to comment stating that investigation is on. “We are also probing into the role of the police to ascertain their role, if any, in the racket,” he said.

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