If the detection of 36,000 fake degrees issued to people across 17 states is termed as the tip of the iceberg by the investigators, the scale of the scam in Himachal Pradesh is shocking beyond words. Only 14 of the 55 hard disks seized from Solan’s Manav Bharti University have been scanned so far by a special investigation team.
Assets of the owner and family/associate concerns valued at 194 crore have been linked to the scam proceeds; it is being touted as the biggest-ever attachment of properties of any educational institution in the country in a money laundering case. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached assets worth over 194 crore belonging to the Manav Bharti University, its associated concerns and promoters in connection with a money laundering probe against them linked to an alleged fake degree scam that emerged in Himachal Pradesh last year but had allegedly being going on ever since the said university was set up a decade ago. The university is owned by the Manav Bharti Charitable Trust and was established under the Manav Bharti University (Establishment and Regulation) Act 2009, as per state police.
According to ED sources, the attached properties are in the form of land, residential house and commercial buildings in Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan that are worth 186.44 crore and six fixed deposits of 7.72 crore. The assets are in the name of Solan-based Manav Bharti University (MBU), Madhav University, Manav Bharti Charitable Trust and trust chairman Raj Kumar Rana. The university is owned by the Manav Bharti Charitable Trust and was established under the Manav Bharti University (Establishment and Regulation) Act 2009, as per state police. The total value of the assets attached by the Enforcement Directorate is 194.17 crore.
The ED had last year filed a case under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against the accused after studying and taking cognisance of a clutch of FIRs registered by the state police.
The ED claimed in a statement that Rana “started this scam of issuance of fake degrees in the name of MBU in 2009 from his office in Karnal, Haryana”. ED said, “Criminal proceeds to the tune of Rs 387 crore were generated from issuance of fake degrees and these were invested by Rana in several properties in his name as well as in the name of his son Mandeep Rana and other family members.”
ED alleged, “It has come out that these properties were under-valued so that illegal cash proceeds may be adjusted”. It claimed that Rana constructed another institution named Madhav University in Mount Abu, Rajasthan’s “through the illegal proceeds generated from issuance of fake degrees.”
“Proceeds of crime were indirectly utilised by channelling through the bank accounts of Manav Bharti University, Solan and Manav Bharti Charitable Trust for construction of Manav Bharti University (Rajasthan),” it alleged.
It said, “The illegal proceeds so infused into the bank accounts of Manav Bharti University, Solan and Manav Bharti Charitable Trust were falsely shown as the academic receipts in the books of accounts and hence inflated the same to show them as genuine proceeds”. In fact, the fake degree racket of Manav Bharti University (MBU) in Solan is turning into one of the biggest scams of its kind following the detection of 36,000 fake degrees from 14 of the 55 hard disks scanned so far by a special investigation team of the CID. This is just the tip of the iceberg as the number of fake degrees is set to multiply manifold with the scanning of the remaining 41 hard disks. The scam is likely to run into crores of rupees, said the investigation team.
The passport of main accused Raj Kumar Rana, the chairman of Manav Bharti Charitable Trust who is running the MBU, has been revoked and extradition proceedings to bring back his wife, son and daughter from Australia are in progress, Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu told. Of the 440-crore properties belonging to Rana and his family, those valuing 194.74 crore are linked to the proceeds of the crime and have been attached, the DGP said, adding that this is the biggest-ever attachment of properties of any educational institution in the country in a money laundering case.
“The number of fake degrees can vary. We presume it’s much higher. It’s a very well organised racket which was being run for the last one decade,” said additional director general (ADG) of police,” CID, N Venugopal. The probe revealed that each degree related to technical subjects was sold to students within and outside Himachal Pradesh (HP) for one lakh to three lakh, he added. The SIT team also rounded up a Jammu based agent of the university who struck deals locally for selling the fake degrees.
The sleuths found that the manager of MBU sold degrees outside the state through ‘agents’ who in return got handsome commissions. In a majority of cases the buyers paid cash for degrees to these agents who provided details of the candidates to the university for making the fake degrees.
SIT sent sleuths to seven different states, including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Visits were also made to Jammu, Delhi, Chandigarh and Kashmir to trace the whereabouts of the agents. MBU, the probe found, enrolled more than 95,000 students in different courses. The SIT in June arrested MBU chairman Raj Kumar Rana after the HP high court refused to grant him anticipatory bail. Rana was arrested on the court premises as soon as his bail plea was rejected. He was taken to Solan for interrogation. Earlier the SIT had arrested a former registrar of the university, KK Singh. Two university officials, registrar Anupama Thakur and assistant registrar Munish Goel, were arrested in March.
While all this was going on in Himachal Pradesh, the Punjab Police this week busted an interstate gang of fake education consultants who duped students and parents in the name of providing academic degrees. The gang used to create false domain names of universities and make fake certificates. The suspects have been identified as Nirmal Singh, alias Nimma of Kartarpur village, Mullanpur Garibdas; Mohali resident Ankit Arora, Mathura resident Vishnu Sharma, Meerut resident Sushant Tyagi and Ghaziabad resident Anand Vikram Singh. The police have recovered a large number of fake degrees, printers, scanners, lamination machines, fake holograms, mobile phones, laptops and cars used in the crime. A case was registered under Sections 259, 260,420, 465, 467, 468, 469, 470,471, 473 and 120 of the IPC at the Zirakpur police station on January 26. The suspects had opened study centres at various places in the state under different names and had been operating since 2017. The police said close to 1,000 persons were in contact with them. The SP (Rural), Ravjot Grewal, and DSP of Zirakpur Amro Singh said the arrests had been made from Mohali, Meerut, Mathura and Delhi. The suspects have been remanded in police custody and are being questioned.