Three more people posing as part of an ‘official team’ led by a conman from Gujarat, Kiran Bhai Patel, may have escaped from Kashmir before police arrested the “senior PMO official” early this month in Srinagar.
The imposter had taken the Jammu and Kashmir administration and security structure for a ride by securing Z-plus security cover, a bulletproof Mahindra Scorpio SUV, official accommodation at a five-star hotel, and a lot more.
Patel, who was impersonating an Additional Director for strategy and campaigns in the Prime Minister’s Office, was arrested on March 2, but his arrest was kept a secret by the police. On Thursday, details of his arrest emerged after a magistrate sent him to judicial custody.
Sources say Amit Hitesh Pandiya and Jay Sitapara from Gujarat, and Trilok Singh from Rajasthan were also staying with Patel at a five-star hotel in Srinagar and impersonating an official team from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Alleging a political conspiracy, advocate Rehan Gowhar, Patel’s lawyer, said that two more people accompanying him were set free by the police.
“My client told me that he was accompanied by two more people from Gujarat. Police have also recorded his statement before the magistrate under section 164. Both were set free by the police,” he said.
The “PMO team” has been visiting Kashmir since October last year. Hours before Patel was arrested on March 2 following a tip off by Jammu and Kashmir CID, his three accomplices managed to escape.
Sources say Patel came under suspicion after he asked a senior official to accompany him on an official tour to the Budgam district. The officer, according to sources, contacted a top CID officer. Subsequent investigation by intelligence officers nailed the imposter.
Sources say an IAS officer who is a district magistrate in south Kashmir had initially informed the security wing of the police about the visit of a “senior PMO officer”.
He was eventually given Z plus security by the security wing, and local police would also accompany the ‘VIP’ wherever he visited during four trips since October.
The imposter, Kiran Bhai Patel, also held a series of meetings with officials and even visited forward areas near the Line of Control, and posted his photos at an army installation at the Kaman Post in Uri sector.
Patel is also verified on Twitter and has over a thousand followers, including BJP Gujarat General Secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela.
He shared several videos and pictures of his ‘official visits’ in Kashmir surrounded by paramilitary guards, the last of which was on March 2.
In his Twitter bio he claims to have a PhD from Commonwealth University, Virginia, an MBA from IIM Trichy, as well as an M Tech in Computer Science and BE in Computer Engineering. Patel further described himself as a “thinker, strategist, analyst and campaign manager”.
The conman’s first visit to the valley was on October 27 last year. He came with his family. In subsequent visits, the other members of the “PMO team” joined him.
Kiran Patel shared several pictures of his visit to Kashmir. There are many videos of him travelling to various places, escorted by the paramilitary and the police. He is seen walking through snow at Doodhpathri in Budgam with paramilitary guards. He is also seen posing for a photo in front of the clock tower Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
Sources say Patel also held meetings with officials to discuss ways to bring more tourists from Gujarat and about making Doodhpathri a major tourist destination.
Sources say action has been initiated against two police officials for the goof-up. A senior officer said that it’s a major concern that an IAS introduced a conman as a PMO official, and the security wing of the police and other officials obliged with official protocol and Z plus security cover for such a long time.
A team of Gujarat police has also joined investigations and questioned Patel, sources said.