KERALA

Jayachandran surrenders before Crime Branch

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Nov. 13. The Thaniniram reporter, R. Jayachandran, who was named as fourth accused in the sensational `intelligence letter' forgery case, surrendered before the Crime Branch today.

Police said Mr. Jayachandran, against whom the Crime Branch had issued two look-out notices after he was listed as a `wanted man', surrendered in the presence of his lawyer at the investigating agency's office at Muttada here at 11.30 a.m.

He was immediately whisked away in a police van and brought to the office of the DIG (Crime Branch) at Charachira. Before being taken away, Mr. Jayachandran told presspersons that he was not an absconder and was under treatment for the past 10 days at a hospital in Kochi. Asked why he had chosen to surrender now, Mr. Jayachandran cryptically replied that it was ``not a surrender''. The Crime Branch sleuths whisked him away from the Muttada office before the presspersons could pose more questions.

Mr. Jayachandran had ``disappeared in a green Maruti car'' from Shobhana George's house one and a half months ago when a Crime Branch team reached there to arrest the MLA's private secretary, Anil. P. Sreerangam.

According to sources, Mr. Jayachandran was being subjected to detailed interrogation at the DIG's office. The Crime Branch is viewing the arrest of Mr. Jayachandran as a major break-through in the case. An official said the arrest of Mr. Jayachandran would serve to tie-up several `loose ends'. It was also likely that the Crime Branch would bring all the accused in the case together, including Ms. George, to question them in each other's presence. The agency hopes to clinch the case at the earliest and file the chargesheet in early December.

The investigators are not ruling out the involvement of more persons in the case. There is likely to be more arrests in the coming days as other aspects of the alleged conspiracy come to light. Among other things, the investigators are trying to conclusively find out who authored the ``intelligence note'', when and on which computer. The agency is reported to have a definite idea about the author but is trying to muster enough evidence to make the charge stick. The letter was written in Microsoft word processor in 12 point New Times Roman font with a left alignment.

Official sources said Mr. Jayachandran would be produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) tonight or on Thursday morning. The Crime Branch was also likely to file an application before the CJM seeking Mr. Jayachandran's custody for further questioning.

It was on June 24 that Surya TV first reported the existence of the purported intelligence note written by the Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) to the private secretary of the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, stating that the Tourism and Fisheries Minister, K.V. Thomas, was involved in a Rs 336-crore hawala transaction during the 1999-2000 period. The news report caused much uproar in the Assembly with the Opposition demanding the resignation of Prof. Thomas and a judicial inquiry into the matter. The Chief Minister denied the existence of the purported document and ordered a Crime Branch inquiry into the `forgery' of the intelligence note.

The Surya TV reporter, Anil Nambiar, who first reported the existence of the document, was named as first accused in the forgery case and arrested by the Crime Branch. The Congress MLA, Shobhana George, is the third accused in the case. Her private secretary, Anil. P. Sreerangam, is the second accused. The arrests were made by the Crime Branch on the basis of the finding that the accused along with some others had forged the document and reported its existence through the media as part of a larger conspiracy to defame the Government and destabilise the Cabinet.

Though not named as accused in the case yet, the Crime Branch was also probing the alleged role of the former journalist, Chandramohan, in the entire episode. The Crime Branch said Mr. Chandramohan was absconding along with his family. Recently, the Crime Branch conducted a search on the house of Mr. Chandramohan and inspected the contents of a personal computer found there.

The Crime Branch had sought the help of computer experts to sift through the hard disc in a bid to determine whether the alleged forgery of the intelligence document was done on that computer. The Crime Branch team which found some ``deliberate deletions using technical expertise'' on the machine are using an `un-delete' software to find out if they can salvage some of the deleted components. The contents found in the hard disc of the computer were copied and the machine was sealed and produced before the court, the sources said.

The Crime Branch had also said that they had identified the two persons who delivered the forged letter in a sealed cover to the Surya office on June 24. An official said the two persons who delivered the letter have `close links' with Mr. Chandramohan. The Crime Branch is pursuing several leads to find the whereabouts of Mr. Chandramohan.

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