India removes top official allegedly over Ponzi scheme probe

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has forced one of its most senior officials to resign after reports said he had interfered in a police probe into a Ponzi scheme.

The government said late Wednesday it had accepted the resignation of home secretary Anil Goswami with "immediate effect" without giving reasons for the sudden departure.

Goswami's removal comes after the foreign secretary was sacked last week, with the government reportedly unhappy with her performance, and replaced by a former envoy to the United States.

Right-wing Mr Modi stormed to power at elections last May promising zero tolerance of corruption, after the previous Congress party government's decade in charge was plagued by graft scandals.

Mr Modi has also cracked down on the performance of officials, demanding longer hours and more efficiency, and surprising some by paying unannounced visits to their offices.

As home secretary, Goswami was the most senior bureaucrat in the ministry of home affairs, which oversees a large array of portfolios including internal security and the police.

Indian newspapers said Thursday that Home Minister Rajnath Singh sacked Goswami after being notified that he had tried to halt the arrest of a former minister under the previous Congress government.

Goswami reportedly phoned investigators of India's federal police, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who wanted to question Matang Sinh over a banking scam.

The CBI has already arrested several top regional politicians and lawmakers for alleged links to the property-to-media Saradha Group which collapsed last year, leaving tens of thousands of mostly poor investors penniless.

The savers saw their money vanish in a scam which offered to multiply savings four-fold over seven years.

Goswami could not be reached for comment.