RAJKOT: The Rajkot rural police on Saturday arrested 19 more persons in connection with the groundnut procurement scam and claimed to have solved the case. With this, 22 persons including the three arrested on Friday, have been nabbed.

Gujcot warehouse manager Magan Zalavadia has emerged as the mastermind behind the scam. Police said that Zalavadia, who was arrested on Saturday, had hatched the conspiracy along with 16 members of the Moti Dhanej Cooperative Society in Maliya-Hatina taluka of Junagadh; two other employees of Gujcot and two officials of the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed), the nodal agency of the central government for purchase of farm produce at MSP across the country.

All the accused were booked under the (IPC) Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating and dishonesty), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and added two more Sections of IPC 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant).

About five days ago, 31,000 sacks of groundnut (35kg each) worth Rs 4.57 crore were found to contain huge quantity of sand and pebbles. The sacks were kept at a private godown rented by Nafed in Pedhla village of Jetpur in Rajkot. The alleged scam came to light when an oil miller who had purchased the stock during auction went to take the delivery of the commodity.

“This was a well-planned conspiracy involving all those, including government officials, attached to the procurement process,” said Rajkot rural superintendent of police Balram Meena.

“The accused used to remove groundnut from the bags and replace it with mud and stones when the commodity was being taken to the warehouse for storage. About 20%-30% of the seized stock was found to be adulterated,” Meena told media persons in Rajkot on Saturday.

According to Meena, the mastermind of the scam was Gujcot warehouse manager Magan Zalavadia. “We became suspicious when Zalavadia did not turn up to register a complaint on July 31 despite several calls. It was only after coaxing that he registered a complaint. But now, he has become the main accused and key conspirator,” he added.

Zalavadia was the key in the exercise of groundnut procurement at MSP. Sources said that he was responsible for procuring 4.5 lakh tonne groundnut various cooperative societies. This was nearly half of the total groundnut stock procured by Gujcot on behalf of Nafed.

“There was no third party surveyor to ascertain and examine the quality of groundnut at the procurement centres and at the warehouse,” Meena said.

During interrogation, Zalavadia revealed names of office bearers of the cooperative society as well as of the other officers and employees of Gujcot and Nafed involved in the scam.

All the accused conspired together and the resulting scam has led to loss of Rs 1 crore to the government exchequer.

The key accused include president of Moti Dhanej Cooperative Society, Kalabhai Jethva; vice president Sonigbhai Jijiya; secretary Kaushal Jethva; local BJP leader Jitubhai Bachubhai; and Vinod Tilva and Jignesh Ujitiya of Gujcot. One of the accused, Rohit Boda, a junior field officer with Nafed is a distant relative of chairman V R Boda.

Box 1: Zalavaida also suspect in warehouse fire cases

The mastermind of the scam Magan Zalavadia, who had supervised procurement of groundnut in Saurashtra region, was also one of the suspects in the fire at a warehouse in Gondal and Shapar couple of months ago. But investigation agency of the state CID crime didn’t find any evidence against him. Rajkot rural police claimed that during interrogation they got the clue of the fire in Gondal and Shapar warehouse in which huge stock of groundnut was gutted. It was alleged that the warehouses were set ablaze to destroy evidence of stone and mud mixed in the groundnut stock.

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