What did him in was the fact that his photo was among pictures of accused in sex crimes shown on TV
All those who knew the 30-year-old probationary officer with State Bank of Travancore, now in police custody here after he was identified as Bittihotra Mohanty, were left with a sense of disbelief as they watched images on television news on Saturday of the absconding convict in a rape case, an impersonator who had also resorted to deception and forgery.
In fact, the suave son of former Odisha Director General of Police B.B. Mohanty hardly looked like a fugitive from law even as he was arrested and led away by the police here on Saturday morning.
The probationary officer joined the bank’s branch at Madayi, about 25 km from Kannur, in June 2012 as ‘Raghav Rajan’ from Puttaparthy in Andhra Pradesh. He had good B.Tech and MBA degrees.
For sure, he did his MBA at the Chinmaya Mission Institute of Technology at Chala in 2009-11. Authorities of the college said that the academic documents produced by him to gain admission to MBA had been properly ‘verified’. ‘Raghav Rajan’, son of ‘Rajiv Rajan’ and ‘Saraswati Devi’ residing at ‘Sai Sree Enclave, Chitravally Road’ at Puttaparthy had got B.Tech degree from Kalinga Institute of Industrial Training, a deemed university, in Bhubaneswar. He was shown as having done the course between 2001 and 2005, but the degree certificate was issued in July 2006.
(When contacted by The Hindu in Bhubaneswar, an official of the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University denied that it had any student by name Raghav Rajan. However, providing a potentially revealing pointer to what would have actually transpired, he said that Bitti was actually a Computer Science B. Tech student at the institute from 2001 to 2005. The university had indeed issued a B. Tech degree certificate to him in July 2006, Senior Public Relations Officer Shradhanjali Nayak said.)
Bitti was convicted for raping a 26-year-old German national in a hotel in Alwar, Rajasthan on March 21, 2006. On November 20, after spending seven months in jail, he was allowed to leave on parole, and he went to Odisha on the plea that his mother was unwell. He vanished thereafter.
His father, who was then DG Home Guards and Fire Services, stood surety for his son's return to prison in 15 days. When Bitti jumped parole, Mr. Mohanty was accused of helping his son escape.
In 2006, a fast-track court in Alwar had taken just 15 days from the date of the complaint being filed, to convict him and sentence him to seven years' rigorous imprisonment.
Producing copies of documents including degree certificates produced by ‘Raghav Rajan’, Chinmaya Mission Educational and Cultural Trust secretary K.K. Rajan told The Hindu that the college had sent all certificates and mark sheets for verification and had them verified. He had given an address at Puttaparthy.
The candidate had got an equivalency certificate, mandatory. He produced documents to show his Management Aptitude Test score as 95.32 per cent. He had paid all his dues and later worked as a guest lecturer at the institute. He would play tennis on the campus and was a good public speaker. He used to sing bhajans at functions of the Chinmaya Mission and was a regular devotee at the Sree Sundareshwara Temple here during his stay in the college hostel.
As per the records at the college, ‘Raghav Rajan’ had done his schooling at Stewart School and higher secondary course at Christ College, both in Cuttack. As per the records, his date of birth is June 27, 1983. (However, inquiries made by The Hindu in Cuttack on Saturday revealed that no student of Andhra Pradesh domicile by the name Raghav Rajan had passed Class X from Stewart School and Class XII from Christ College.)
“He was very obedient, at times over-submissive, and we noticed no behavioural problems in him,” said Mr. Rajan. He recalled that nearly 70 per cent of the around 80 students in his batch were women. He took his MBA with 71 per cent marks.
Police officers said they were trying to trace his trail after he absconded in November 2006 and before he joined the MBA course. As per records available at the college, he taught at the Sree Vidya Degree College somewhere in Andhra Pradesh and the Sree Sathya Sai Deena Janodharana School in Puttaparthy, before he joined for MBA. Police assume he stayed at Puttaparthy during the period.
A senior officer at the regional office of the SBT echoed the same sense of disbelief. The Human Resources wing of the bank normally does a preliminary verification for all recruits. Police verification would be done on confirmation of appointment after the end of the two-year training period.
“He was a good officer, intelligent in his work. Woman staff members were particularly shocked when they heard about his real identity,” a senior bank official said.
According to the bank authorities here, they got an anonymous letter three days ago and reported the matter to the headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. Top officials at the bank’s headquarters had by then got the information independently and reported it to the Director General of Police.
What did him in was the fact that his photo was among pictures of accused in sex crimes shown by television channels and floated on the Internet in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape incident.
‘Raghav Rajan’ worked in the bank till the evening of March 7.
The police said that his admission to the MBA course and his recruitment in the bank raised serious questions about the process of verification as all the certificates and documents he produced were apparently fake.
His colleagues at the bank said he had been living in a rented room at Puthiyatheru till he shifted to a house at Madayi a month ago. At Madayi he was staying with another bank employee, a non-Malayalee, who the police said was missing.
Senior officials of the bank who had access to the bank of account details of the arrested person said it showed no suspicious transactions.
Bank to probe
In Thiruvananthapuram, a bank spokesman said the anonymous letter had alleged that Rajan was a rape convict and impersonator. “The photographs given on the website mentioned in the letter matched Rajan’s profile. However, calls to the reference numbers given in the letter failed to yield any clue.”
SBT has instituted an internal investigation to ascertain whether Rajan is guilty of impersonation and forging personal documents. The investigation will involve a scrutiny of the documents submitted by the candidate before the recruitment board of the State Bank of India. Rajan had joined the Madayi branch after training at the head office of the bank.
“The fact that he had cleared the probationary officers’ test and holds an MBA degree shows that he is qualified to hold the post. While the police investigation will prove whether Rajan is really a rape accused on the run, the bank is concerned about how he managed to hide his identity to make it to the SBT.”
Asked about any systemic flaws that had led to such a situation, he said the delay in police verification was forcing banks to recruit probationary officers without waiting for clearance. “A case like this is extremely rare and does not indicate a trend.”
According to sources in the State police, Bitti had used at least three mobile phone connections to regularly communicate with someone in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Investigators said they suspected that he had destroyed the SIM cards. A preliminary examination of the call data records indicated he had probably used the contact as a “bridge” to communicate with others.
The police were also looking at his Internet usage history, including his social networking site accounts and use of voice over internet protocol sites, if any. They said he rarely used his personal computer to go online, frequenting internet cafes instead.
Interestingly, he told investigators that he had cleared the 2005 civil services preliminary examination.
Police sources said the suspect was uncooperative. He broke down at one stage of interrogation, though he denied he was Bitti Mohanty.