Mumbai/New Delhi: Producers of some recently released Bollywood movies that featured top stars allegedly paid money to Censor Board CEO Rakesh Kumar, arrested in a bribery case, after he apparently threatened to stall their clearance over item songs, the CBI said today.
Kumar, who took over as CEO of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in January this year, was meanwhile suspended after Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar took a serious view of the matter.
As a Mumbai court remanded Kumar in CBI custody till August 22, the agency said all the movies cleared by Kumar are under the scanner for any irregularities. Kumar was arrested in Mumbai yesterday for allegedly demanding Rs 70,000 as bribe for clearing a regional movie. It was the third arrest in the case.
Mumbai’s special CBI judge A D Karanjkar was told by the agency counsel that 33 costly watches of expensive brands such as Rolex, Rado, etc were allegedly found at his home and that he did not disclose how it came in his possession.
The agency told the court the matter was a very “deep conspiracy” and there was a need to get to the bottom of it.
“Kumar was habitual in collecting money through agents,” the counsel alleged.
“It needs to be investigated for whom he issued the certificates (at different point of time) and we also need to get the names of producers, directors and agents,” he added.
The court was also told that Kumar used to issue certificates out of turn and documents seized from him allegedly contained incriminating material.
The counsel told the court that Kumar allegedly used to demand Rs 1.5 lakh for screening a film for certification in 3 to 4 days; Rs 25,000 if it had to be given in 7 to 8 days time and Rs 15,000 for a short film.
“Shripati Mishra (one of the arrested agents) has told CBI that 5 to 6 times he paid Kumar amount ranging from Rs 35,000 to Rs 1.2 lakh collectively worth Rs 5 lakh. The payment used to be delivered at his residence, office or outside as directed by Kumar,” he told the court.
The agency also said that for the last two months, Sarvesh Jaiswal, arrested advisory member of the board, was allegedly collecting money on behalf of Kumar and Mishra had paid Jaiswal around Rs 3.5 lakh.
Agency sources said during the interrogation of the three accused it emerged that some top names in the Bollywood had apparently paid money to get their movies cleared in time.
CBI is independently verifying whether these claims are correct and carry any evidentiary value, the sources said.
During the questioning, it also emerged that producers of several recently released movies, in which top stars were screened, were among those who had to pay to get their films cleared with item songs, the sources said.
“The common threat was to chop off item songs. Besides, clearance was delayed till last moment which made producers frantic and cough out illegal gratification to get the certificate. Not releasing movies on time can result in huge damages,” a senior official said in Delhi on the condition of anonymity.