Former Manipur Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh, who was quizzed by the CBI over alleged financial irregularities in the Manipur Development Society (MDS) during his tenure as its chairman, said he held the post only for a year and did not have any power to authorise transactions.
Speaking to reporters after being quizzed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for nearly three hours at his residence at Babupara in Imphal, the Congress leader denied any wrongdoing.
Singh said he was the chairman of the MDS from July 2013 to August 2014, and “during that short tenure” he only chaired one annual general body meeting, denying reports that he held the post for seven-eight years.
He said he took up the post “after being requested by the then chief secretary”.
“As per the rules of the MDS, there is no role of the chairman. Any type of transaction, sanction and signing of cheques are done by the project director. Hence, the chairman is not aware of it,” Singh said.
“I didn’t open any bank account in connection with MDS, never signed a single cheque,” he said, adding that he was never a joint signatory as the chairman.
The three-time former chief minister along with four other former chairmen of the MDS is facing allegation of embezzling funds amounting to ₹332 crore.
Singh said that he welcomes the investigation and is extending all cooperation.
“If anyone is found guilty, the court after due examination of the allegations and counter-allegations may give the necessary punishment,” he said.
He said the the CBI officials “politely” asked him about his family’s finances.
The Congress alleged that the interrogation was a desperate bid to save the BJP-led government in Manipur, which recently faced the rebellion of nine MLAs including four ministers of ally NPP.
“Unlikely to save an unpopular leadership. This (is) nothing but an effort to buy time for a sinking ship. People will lose their faith in the CBI,” Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi had tweeted after the agency had summoned Ibobi Singh.
The probe agency has summoned retired IAS officer O Nabakishore Singh, also a former chairman of Manipur Development Society, for questioning on Thursday, they said.
Both O Ibobi Singh and O Nabakishore Singh have been booked as they held the post of chairman, Manipur Development Society, where the alleged embezzlement of funds took place, they said.
The CBI action came at a time when BJP-led coalition government in the state government has plunged into crisis after nine MLAs withdrew support.
The BJP on Tuesday took four National Peoples Party (NPP) ministers who resigned from the N Biren Singh-led Manipur government to Delhi for a meeting with central leaders to salvage the situation in the northeastern state, BJP sources said.
A CBI team from the agency headquarters here had reached Imphal on Tuesday for questioning the accused based there.
When asked about the timing of the questioning, the agency officials had said it was part of an ongoing investigation in which some persons have already been examined.
The CBI had taken over the case on November 20 last year on the request of the states BJP government.
It is alleged that Ibobi Singh conspired with others during his tenure as the chairman of the Manipur Development Society (MDS) from June 2009 to July 2017, and misappropriated government funds worth approximately ₹332 crore, out of ₹518 crore that was entrusted to them for development works, according to the officials.
Along with Singh, the CBI has also named three former MDS chairmen — D S Poonia, PC Lawmuknga, O Nabakishore Singh — all retired IAS officers.
Y Ningthem Singh, the former project director of MDS and S Ranjit Singh, its administrative officer have also been named in the FIR.
(With inputs from agencies)