Railway Board Member (Staff) Mahesh Kumar, arrested in Mumbai by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday, allegedly struck a Rs. 10-crore deal with the nephew of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and his associates for appointment as Railway Board Member (Electrical). He agreed to make an interim payment of Rs. 2 crore to secure additional charge of General Manager (Western Railway and Signal and Telecommunication) until he got the lucrative posting.
Mr. Kumar was promoted to his present position a few days ago, but was not happy with it, according to the FIR.
Since the alleged middlemen involved in the conspiracy claimed that they would get the job done through their contacts in the Railway Ministry, the CBI is probing the identity of the Ministry officials and industrialists who were in touch with them. “No one would agree to pay such a huge amount without being absolutely sure of the credentials of the go-betweens,” a senior CBI officer told The Hindu , adding efforts were under way to identify the person for whom the money was intended. The bribe was financed on Mr. Kumar’s behalf by his alleged accomplice, Narayan Rao Manjunath, managing director of the Bangalore-based G.G. Tronics India Private Limited, a company engaged in manufacturing signal products and automation railway components.
Among the alleged middlemen, Mr. Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla runs a business house in Chandigarh, whereas his associate Sandip Goyal owns a Punchkula (Haryana)-based company manufacturing electrical equipment for the Railways.
Following a tip-off, the CBI arrested Mr. Singla and Mr. Goyal in Chandigarh on Friday night, after which Mr. Kumar was held in Mumbai and Mr. Manjunath in Bangalore.
On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Kumar and Mr. Manjunath were produced in a CBI court along with Dharmendra Kumar and Vivek Kumar, who had allegedly carried the money to Chandigarh. While the court sent them to four days’ custody of the CBI, Mr. Kumar and Mr. Manjunath are being brought here on transit remand.
According to the FIR, the CBI unearthed the plot after it received information about Mr. Kumar’s machinations. Mr. Goyal and Ajay Garg of Chandigarh had reportedly assured Mr. Kumar of the appointment for a hefty price.
The degree of reach of the alleged middlemen in the corridors of power becomes apparent from the FIR details, which reveal that Mr. Goyal informed Mr. Kumar and Mr. Manjunath that the present Railway Board chairman was to retire in June and would be replaced by the present Member (Electrical). He gave the assurance that once the new chairman took charge, he would get Mr. Kumar his desired post.
“Sandip demanded an illegal gratification of Rs. 10 crore with half the payment in advance,” the senior CBI officer said.
To arrange for the bribe, Mr. Kumar allegedly turned to Mr. Manjunath and other industrialists who dealt regularly with the Railways. Mr. Manjunath purportedly offered Rs. 1 crore in return for assurances of official favours, but could arrange only Rs. 90 lakh. The two persons accused of conspiracy along with the accused — Rahul Yadav and Samir Sandhir (Delhi), besides Faridabad’s Sushil Daga — made arrangements to transfer the money to Chandigarh on Friday.
Accordingly, CBI sleuths laid a trap and arrested Mr. Singla and Mr. Goyal while they were allegedly accepting the bribe money from Dharmender and Vivek, associates of Rahul Yadav, who allegedly has links with Mr. Manjunath.
It was for land deal, says Singla
Mr. Singla has claimed that the Rs. 90 lakh, which the CBI recovered from him, was meant for a land deal that he was pursuing. Mr. Singla’s lawyer claimed he was falsely implicated in the case and opposed the CBI demand for Mr. Singla’s police custody.
The lawyer for another suspect, Vivek Kumar, claimed that his client was a computer operator who was asked by his employer to drop the money and had no knowledge of the alleged conspiracy.
Special CBI judge Swarana Kanta Sharma allowed the agency to interrogate Mr. Singla and three other persons — Sandip Goyal, Dharmendra Kumar and Vivek Kumar — till May 7.