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Sunday, 11 February, 2001, 09:55 GMT
Indian police crack ghost office

By South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge

Police in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh say they have arrested a gang which was running a parallel office of the chief minister and appointing fake employees to government jobs.

They had been on the trail of the seven-member gang for 18 months.

Mahendra Sikarwar, arrested as the leader of the gang, was running a local paper but behind this cover the police allege that he was running an operation that might have put at least 100 people into jobs with the state government under false premises.

Police sources say the gang obtained blank letterheads of the chief minister and then sent letters concerning appointments, transfers and promotions to government departments, forging the chief minister's signature.

They are also alleged to have sent reminders to the departments if tasks were not done.

The police have arrested two printing press owners as well and they say more people could be caught in the net as investigations continue.

If the evidence stands up in court, it seems to be more evidence too of the power of a politician's letterhead in India.

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