B’nei Menashe Council Turns Down Shavei Plea To Close Bank Fraud Case
Updated: Dec 24, 2020
(December 24) In a confrontation on December 17 at the main Churachandpur police station, eight members of the B’nei Menashe Council executive faced four Shavei Israel representatives across a table while the Investigating Officer, Sub-Inspector M. Daniel, questioned both
The questioning focused on what may be the tip of an iceberg: a check for 2,047 rupees written to the B’nei Menashe Council bank account by Meital Singson, former Shavei Israel Administrator in Manipur, when she withdrew the money and closed the account on November 30. Singson, who fraudulently put the stamp “Secretary (Finance), Bnei Menashe Council” beneath her signature on the check, held no position in the BMC and had no legal authority to conduct transactions in its name. Two co-signatures appeared on the check beside her own: one, above the stamp “Chairman, Bnei Menashe Council,” belonged to Bentzion Suantak, and the other was allegedly that of former BMC chairman Avihu Singsit, who had died two weeks previously.
Meital Singson is now in Israel, where she arrived on December 15 with a group of 252 B’nei Menashe immigrants. Bentzion Suantak was one of the four Shavei activists present at the December 17 confrontation and the only one of them currently under investigation. The other three were former BMC Secretary Seimang Yitzhak Haokip, current Shavei Administrator in Manipur Sehjalal Shlomo Haokip, and Avior Haokip, a pro-Shavei member of the Beit Shalom synagogue in Churachandpur. (Haokip is an extremely common name in Manipur, where the Haokips form the largest tribal group.)
At the confrontation, our Newsletter has learned, the following exchange took place:
Investigating Officer Daniel (To Seimang): “Is it true that Bentzion Suantak is or was the chairman of the B’nei Menashe Council as stamped on the check?”
Seimang: “No, it isn’t.”
I.O.: “Are Meital Singson and Bentzion Suantak members of the BMC?”
I.O.: “Why then were they allowed to withdraw money from the BMC’s bank account?”
Seimang: “I don’t know.”
I.O.: “Was Bentzion Suantak an authorized signatory to the account?”
Seimang: “No, he was not.”
Suantak: “There was an agreement between the BMC and Shavei that Shavei would have the use of the BMC bank account.”
I.O: (To Seimang): “Were you aware of such an agreement?””
Seimang: “No, I wasn’t.” But the account was Shavei’s. I just didn’t know that it was in the name of
I.O. (To Suantak): “Show me the agreement.”
Suantak: “It was a verbal one.”
I.O.: “That’s not good enough. Why, if you weren’t authorized to sign BMC checks, did you do so anyway?”
Suantak: “Because I was told to.”
I.O.: “By whom?”
Suantak: “By Meital Singson and Tsvi Khaute.”
Khaute, who lives in Israel, is Shavei Israel Coordinator and reputedly the organization’s second in command. He and Singson are said to be close.
“Do you realize” Inspector Daniel asked Suantak, “that you’re likely to be arrested, served with a charge-sheet [a police recommendation for an indictment], and end up behind bars?”
“Suantak didn’t answer that,” our Newsletter was told by Demsat Haokip, a BMC executive member present at the confrontation. “He just sputtered angrily. I said to him: ‘If anyone should be angry, it’s us, not you.’”
At the confrontation’s end, Inspector Daniel announced that he would give the parties several days to arrive at a settlement, during which the BMC could withdraw its charges if it wished. Soon after, says Ohaliav Haokip, the BMCs newly elected Secretary, he and Demsat were visited by a staunch Shavei supporter, Seithang Haokip, an uncle of Seimang Haokip and himself BMC Chairman in the years when the Council was controlled by Shavei. “If you know what’s good for you,” Seithang told the two men, “you’ll back down and withdraw charges. Shavei is involved in this to the hilt. You don’t stand a chance against it.” “We’re not afraid,” Demsat Haokip answered him.
Seithang Haokip is the father of Zanglal Haokip, a police investigator in the same Churachandpur station. And just to make the plot thicker, it was on Zanglal’s desk that, by sheer chance, the BMC’s initial complaint landed. Only when he was accused by the BMC of stalling the investigation at his father’s behest was the case transferred to Inspector Daniel.
BMC executive after deciding to press charges. From left to right: Ohaliav Haokip, Demsat Haokip, Ovadiah Thoutang, Nehemiah Lhunjang, Jesse Gangte, Binyamin Haokip, Nehemiah Lhouvum, J.K. David
Following Seithang Haokip’s veiled threat, the BMC executive met and voted unanimously to reject any settlement with Shavei and to insist on pressing charges. On December 21, Ohaliav Haokip returned to the Churachandpur police station and informed Inspector Daniel of this decision. And on the 24th, he went the office of Police Superintendent Amrita Sinha, chief officer of the Churachandpur district, to express his concern that Shavei might succeed in sweeping the case under the rug.
“Superintendent Sinha asked many questions,” Ohaliav Haokip told our Newsletter. “She wanted to know how the BMC could have illegally discontinued its internal audits in 2015, which was the year Meital Singson became Administrator with Tsvi Khaute as her Advisor, and how Seimang Haokip, who had been responsible for the BMC’s finances as its Secretary, had allowed himself to become Meital’s rubber stamp. She also asked whether it was possible that an NGO based in Israel like Shavei could have been funneling money all these years to a BMC bank account in Churachandpur as part of a financial scam.
“I had no answers for her,” Ohaliav Haokip said. “She assured me that she would proceed according to the law and that the investigation, although it might take time, would get to the bottom of it all.”