Railway Board posts up for sale: CBI
MD of Bangalore firm held on graft charge; Bansal kin in custody
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government plunged into a fresh crisis on Saturday as a nephew of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was sent to CBI custody after being arrested for accepting a bribe of Rs 90 lakh from a senior railway official for a top post.
According to the CBI, the senior post on the Railway Board was virtually up for grabs.
The CBI has charged Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla with striking a “deal for Rs 10 crore” to make senior Railway officer Mahesh Kumar Board member (electrical).
Mahesh Kumar has since been suspended from service.
Singla, a multi-millionaire businessman, is son of Bansal’s sister. Singla is a major stake holder in a multi-crore upcoming commercial complex in the Chandigarh industrial area. He stays in a sprawling palatial house in Sector 28 in Chandigarh.
Singla’s house is in close proximity to Bansal’s house. According to sources, Singla is also a stakeholder in a hundred acre property purchased in a suburb near Chandigarh where a multi-crore housing project is intended to be brought up. Singla is close to several Congress leaders in Chandigarh.
Mahesh Kumar had asked Narain Rao Manjunath, managing director of Bangalore-based G G Tronics India Pvt Ltd, to arrange Rs 2 crore to be allegedly paid to Singla. Manjunath’s firm supplies electronic items to the Railways.
Manjunath could arrange only Rs 90 lakh, which was paid to Singla on Friday on behalf of Kumar, the CBI charged.
Sources have revealed that one Sandeep Goyal had informed Kumar and Manjunath (co-accused) that Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal would retire in June 2013 and Member (Electrical) Kulbhushan would succeed him. Goyal had promised that once Kulbhushan was appointed chairman, he could get Kumar the post through his contacts within the ministry, the CBI said in its first information report (FIR).
Goyal’s firm Pyramid Electronics manufactures electrical equipment for Railways.
The FIR does not name the railway minister as accused. The FIR also revealed that Goyal had said that he would get the work done in lieu of pecuniary gratification.
Goyal was further in contact with “private persons” Vijay Singla and Ajay Garg of Chandigarh.
“Goyal demanded an illegal gratification of Rs 10 crore for this purpose; Rs 5 crore in cash before appointment and balance Rs 5 crore after the appointment. Kumar had agreed to Goyal’s demand,” the FIR alleged.
The premier investigating agency did not point out when the conspiracy was hatched. Kumar was the general manager of Western Railway, Mumbai, when he came in contact with Singla.
In the meantime, Kumar became member (staff) on the Railway Board, the CBI pointed out.
The agency said Kumar had requested Singla and his conduit that until he was appointed member (electrical), he should be given the additional charge of general manager, Western Railway and S & T(Signal & Telecommunication).
For that to happen, Singla is alleged to have asked for an immediate installment of Rs 2 crore and the balance after his appointment.
Kumar, said the CBI, started contacting businessmen and industrialists dealing with the Railways. Manjunath agreed to “arrange the money in lieu of official favours.” He, however, could arrange only Rs 90 lakh, said the CBI which was keeping an eye on the deal.
CBI sleuths arrested Mahesh Kumar and Manjunath in Mumbai and Bangalore respectively. The other accused—Singla, Goyal, Vivek Kumar and Dharmendra Kumar—were also held.
The arrested have been remanded in CBI custody till May 8 by a city court .
The agency registered the FIR on Friday and named Mahesh Kumar, Narayan Rao Manjunath, Sandeep Goyal, Vijay Singla, Ajay Garg, Rahul Yadav, Samir Sandhir and Sushil Daga accused under various Sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code.
Searches were conducted at various places, including the residence of member (staff) Railway Board in Delhi and Mumbai, and in Chandigarh, Panchkula, Bangalore and Delhi.
Incriminating documents have been recovered, the CBI added.
* Bansal meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and presents his case in the Congress Core group.
* BJP demands his sacking, describing it a “copy book” case of corruption.
* NDA convener Sharad Yadav comes to Bansal’s rescue; absolves him of any wrongdoing.
* Core committee decides not to press for Bansal’s resignation. He too rules out his resignation.
* Bansal’s nephew, other co-accused produced before special CBI court; sent to four-day CBI custody.
* Congress rejects demands for Bansal’s resignation; says it has become a “disease” for Opposition to seek resignation.
* Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal denies any business link with his