The police arrested Debanjan Deb on June 23 for allegedly posing as an IAS officer and organising a COVID-19 vaccination camp, where actor and TMC MP Mimi Chakraborty had also got her jab.
Arrested fake IAS officer Debanjan Deb has been impersonating as a Joint Commissioner of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) for the last four months and has duped a few people of several lakhs of rupees on the pretext of helping them get tenders of the civic body, a Kolkata Police officer said after initial probe.
Deb, who lied to his family about becoming an IAS officer, might have used that money to organise fake COVID-19 vaccination camps, pay salary to his employees and rent for the office, the officer said on June 25.
The 28-year-old man came in contact with several police officers and political leaders while participating in various programmes organised for social causes, the IPS officer said adding that four persons were called for questioning as part of the investigation.
“Deb was an IAS aspirant but could not crack the UPSC examinations. In 2018, he told his father and relatives that he passed the tests and became an IAS officer,” he said.
Deb told interrogators that he started a business of selling sanitiser, masks and PPE kits last year and made a “good profit” but at that time he did not identify himself as a KMC Joint Commissioner.
“But slowly, when people started approaching him for help in COVID-19 related needs, Deb promised them assistance as an official and started going around identifying himself as a Joint Commissioner of the KMC. He fell into his own trap,” the officer said.
He hired a vehicle, recruited men and rented an office in Kasba area of the city, the cop said.
In the process, he came in contact with a few contractors and sub-contractors of the KMC and allegedly cheated two persons. One of them filed a police complaint alleging that Deb had taken ₹10 lakh from him for a tender of the KMC.
Another person also approached the Kolkata Police claiming that Deb had taken ₹90 lakh from him, out of which ₹36 lakh was transferred to a bank account, for a stadium-construction tender of the KMC, the police officer said.
“He might have used the money to run these camps as well as pay salary to the people he had recruited and rent for the office,” the IPS officer said.
However, the probe is still at a very preliminary stage, he said.
“There is not much money left in the accounts about which Deb has told us. Our officers at the anti-bank fraud unit are using his PAN card details to check whether he has any other bank accounts or not. We have also asked the banks to provide details of all transactions he had through these accounts,” he said.
The items seized from Deb’s office included pads having fake logos of the KMC and the West Bengal government. “We have found from his office several letters written by him to secretaries of various departments. It seems that he wrote them to influence people but never dispatched them. We are verifying the matter with the respective persons,” the police officer said.
The Kolkata Police on June 25 constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the fake vaccination drive. Deb held two camps in the city where thousands of people were suspected to have been inoculated.
The police arrested Deb on June 23 for allegedly posing as an IAS officer and organising a COVID-19 vaccination camp in Kasba area, where actor and Trinamool Congress MP Mimi Chakraborty had also got her jab.
Ms. Chakraborty, who was invited to attend the camp, said she became suspicious about the vaccination process as she did not receive the customary SMS that is sent to people after they are administered a dose, and informed the police.
“At the camp held in a college, 72 people have been inoculated. We are trying to find out how many were vaccinated in Kasba,” the officer said.
Deb got labels of Covishield printed from somewhere in Sealdah area of the city, he added.
The fake labels were found pasted on several vials of an antibiotic injection used for a number of bacterial infections.
Three associates arrested
Three more associates of Deb were arrested on June 26 morning in connection with the dubious COVID-19 vaccination camps in Kolkata, the officer said.
Two of the associates were signatories of the bank account that was created in the name of KMC by the accused. The third person, who was on the payroll of Deb, had actively taken part in the camps where several people were “inoculated” by spurious vaccines.
“One of them is a resident of Salt Lake, while another is from Barasat. Both were called for questioning before they were arrested,” the officer said.
The third person, a resident of Taltala, was arrested after police found him to be “very active” in helping organising the camps.
Meanwhile, three more cases were registered against Deb at the Kasba police station, the police officer said.
“A private firm which claimed to have given him about ₹1.2 lakh to get around 172 employees inoculated lodged a complaint at the Kasba police station. Another complaint was lodged by a contractor who claimed to have paid him ₹90 lakh to get the tender for the construction of a stadium,” he said.
“The third complaint was filed by a pharma company that paid him ₹4 lakh to get a tender,” he added.
Plaque bearing Deb’s removed
The KMC on June 25 dismantled a plaque bearing the name of Deb, along with Trinamool Congress lawmakers and a minister.
Two TMC MLAs lodged police complaints claiming that their names were on the plaque, installed at the base of a bust of Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore at Taltala area in central Kolkata, without their knowledge.
The BJP tweeted that dismantling the plaque, on which Deb was referred to as an official of the KMC, was tantamount to destruction of evidence.
It was installed on February 26 at a function organised by a local reading library but none of the dignitaries was present, the local TMC ward coordinator said. Names of those leaders were included in the plaque without their knowledge, the ward coordinator claimed.
The plaque was removed from the base of the bust and broken into pieces by the KMC at the initiative of the ward coordinator.
A member of the KMC’s board of administrators, Atin Ghosh, said that no such programme was organised by the civic body.
Senior TMC MLA from Baranagar Tapas Roy, whose name was on the plaque denied having known Deb or any knowledge of the programme. “We were busy with election campaigning at that time. I have no idea how my name figured in the plaque,” Mr. Roy said.
He said he lodged a complaint with the police in this regard.
Another TMC MLA Nayna Bandyopadhyay also said she lodged a police complaint on the matter.
Senior minister and head of the KMC’s board of administrators Firhad Hakim said that many people whose identities are not known come close to political leaders to take selfies.
“If any of them prepares a plaque and gets his name written on a plaque along with the names of me and others, does that mean we have any link with him? Please keep in mind that none of us was present there,” Mr. Hakim said.