New Delhi: Exclusive access to an official landline phone for “unhindered private conversations”, money dealings, outside food, unlimited time outside the prison cell, regular exchange of pen drives, business documents and flow of cash from inside the prison — this is how erstwhile Unitech promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra, jailed for allegedly cheating home buyers and money laundering, allegedly spent the last year in Tihar, ThePrint has learnt.
The findings that exposed the nexus inside Tihar jail in the national capital are part of an investigation carried out by Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.
The probe came after the Enforcement Directorate told the Supreme Court in a status report dated 16 August that the Chandras were running an “underground” office in south Delhi from inside jail, and “witnesses in the case were being influenced and proceeds of crime dissipated in order to derail the investigation”. Their father Ramesh Chandra, who was arrested early October, was helping them with the operations from outside, sources said.
The top court had on 26 August ordered the Delhi Police Commissioner to personally conduct a probe against Tihar jail officials, and also directed the Chandras to be shifted to Mumbai’s Taloja jail.
Asthana, who conducted a probe into the matter, submitted his report in a sealed cover to the court on 28 September, detailing the role played by jail officials in helping Chandras.
Following the submission of the report, the Delhi Police crime branch registered a case against 32 Tihar jail officials.
According to sources, the call detail record (CDR) analysis of the 32 officers working inside jail number 7 of Tihar, accessed by the police during probe, revealed that they were in constant touch with Ravinder — an employee of Chandras, via calls, WhatsApp chats and took money to extend “undue favours” to Chandras.
The CDR records and WhatsApp chats are part of the report submitted to the court.
Sources said that the jail staff also admitted that they accepted money from Ravinder.
‘Thousands of personal calls from staff phone’
According to sources, the Chandras used the official landline inside the office of the superintendent of jail number 7 to make personal calls. A separate phone was also installed in the superintendent’s office, which was taken out of his room by the Chandras for “unhindered conversations that can be done in private”.
The Chandras were making unlimited calls using this facility, said a source.
In the last one year, the Chandras made thousands of calls, the source said. A record of the said calls has been detailed in the report submitted to the court.
“A special telephone was installed in the office of the superintendent which was taken out of his room to the room of the PA next door, where a private chat time was allowed,” the source said.
“This time was used by the Chandras for all their dealings- and money-related talks. Calls were also made to his employees to discuss money investments and what more documents they needed inside the prison. The Chandras also made calls to their relatives including their wives,” the source said.
The CDR analysis of the staff posted in jail number 7 also revealed that the Chandras made several hundred personal calls to their employees and relatives, using personal phones of jail officials.
“Many calls were made to Preeti Chandra, wife of Sanjay Chandra. Moreover, several calls were made to Ravinder and Lakhbir — trusted employees of Chandras. All these calls were in addition to the calls allowed by the court,” the source said.
Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra are sons of Ramesh Chandra. Ramesh and Preeti were arrested in October this year and are also in jail now over a number of charges, including money laundering.
‘Prison staff paid Rs 5,000-10,000 for single exchange’
According to sources, the investigation in the matter revealed that jail number 7 prison staff had been “favouring” the Chandras, helping them in exchange of business documents related to money deals, pen drives and cash, for which they were being paid Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for each exchange, depending upon the nature of transaction.
If more documents along with cash were to be smuggled in, the price was higher, the source said.
Sources said Lakhbir Chand and Ravinder worked on directions of the Chandras, facilitating these exchanges from inside Tihar in connivance with prison staff. Ramesh, who hadn’t yet been arrested, was handling everything from outside, the source said.
According to the source, the jail staff used to bring messages in envelopes which said ‘by hand’ from Chandras in prison and give them to Ravinder outside.
“Ravinder in exchange gave the staff envelopes which also said ‘by hand” to be given to Ramesh Chandra outside the jail,” the source said.
“The staff who would carry the envelope would be given a handwritten slip from inside the prison, saying — ‘please give 10,000 to XXX (name of the staff)’. Even the jail superintendent was paid money like this. The staff would then show that slip to Ravinder to get the money,” the source said.
Once the slip was shown to Ravinder, he would click a photo of it and the jail staff would tear the slip, the source said.
Use of WhatsApp, unlimited time outside the prison
Many documents also came to the Chandras through WhatsApp, said sources.
“Lakhbir often sent documents on WhatsApp for Ramesh. Lakhbir had even instructed Ramesh and Ajay Chandra to delete all the documents related to the money dealings, properties and bank accounts after use. Records of all that has been accessed,” said the source quoted above.
Since the Chandras had access to money inside the prison, they paid and recruited many people to do several jobs for them, said sources.
An accused named Simranjeet Singh, who was released on bail in the case of businessman Ponty Chaddha’s murder, was also allegedly recruited by Ajay and Sanjay to bring some company documents on his return.
The jail rules that applied to all, did not apply to Sanjay and Ajay, said the source quoted above.
“They were allowed unlimited time outside the prison. They were not locked up like other prisoners. During questioning, inmates also revealed that they were not asked to be inside the cell ever,” the source said.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)