An arrested prime accused in the multi-crore provident fund scam, in which a number of judges of the higher and lower judiciary were allegedly involved, was found dead in a cell of Dasna district jail in Ghaziabad on Sunday.
43-year-old Ashutosh Astana, who has been in jail since his arrest in January last year, was found unconscious in this cell at around 1400 hrs , Jail Superintendent V K Singh told PTI. "He was sweating a lot and was rushed to the district MMG government hospital but doctors there declared him brought dead," Singh said, adding the exact reason of his death is yet to be ascertained.
Hospital Superintendent A K Singh said it appears that Astana had consumed some poisonous substance but post-mortem would bring out the exact cause of his death. His body has been sent for post mortem. Astana, a former employee of the Gahaziabad court, was the prime accused in the Rs 23-crore scam and lodged in a cell next to Nithari killings accused Surender Koli.
In his statement before a CBI court in September last year, Astana had named one Supreme Court, 12 high court judges and 24 district and other judges in connection with the scam. The case relates to a petition filed by a former president of a lawyers' body in Ghaziabad alleging a major scam involving deposit and withdrawal of crores of rupees from PF accounts of third and fourth grade employees in Ghaziabad region between 2001 and 2008.
District Magistrate R Ramesh Kumar ordered a probe into Astana's death. About two months ago, the deceased had requested the court to tighten his security inside the jail claiming that he was facing threats.