CBI recovers over one crore from Environment Min official

CBI today claimed to have recovered over Rs one crore from the residence of a senior Environment Ministry official who was arrested last night for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs seven lakh for arranging environmental clearance to power and steel company.

Deputy Director in the Environment Ministry, Neeraj Kumar Khatri, arrested for allegedly accepting bribe from a middle man, after being produced in Patiala House Court in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI Photo by Atul Yadav

The official, Neeraj Kumar Khatri, posted as Deputy Director in Ministry of Environment and Forests, was arrested late last night while allegedly accepting the bribe from a middleman of a Odisha-based firm Chariot Group who too has been arrested, CBI sources said.

During his questioning and subsequent searches at the residence, CBI sources claimed its officials stumbled upon a false bottom in one of the cupboard's at the Gurgaon residence of the official where Rs 82.5 lakh of currency notes were hidden.

Another Rs 21.5 lakh cash was recovered from the Rothak residence of the accused official.

The sources said five immovable properties--two flats in Gurgaon and one each in Rohtak, Chandhigarh and Sonipat--in his name have also been identified by the agency.

They said Khatri was in touch for the last five years with father-son duo--Achutananda Srichandan and Chinmaya Srichandan--who run Bhubaneshwar-based SS Environics which acts as consultant firm and allegedly acts liasioner for them under its garb for getting clearances for various mining firms working in Odisha from Environment Ministry.

The website of SS Environics shows some high-profile mining magnets as its client.

The father and the son have been booked in the case by CBI but it has arrested only son Chinmaya who was handing over the money outside a posh hotel in South Delhi's Mehrauli.

The matter pertaining to the environment clearance in respect Chariot Power and Steel Company's Raiboga Lime Stone mining project in Sundergadh, Odisha, was scheduled for consideration by the Reconstituted Expert Appraisal Committee (Non Coal Mining), headed by a Joint Secretary-level official, today.

They said handing over of the bribe money a day before the meeting has raised suspicion of involvement of other members of the committee as Khatri himself was not on the panel.

The agency would soon question officials of Environment Ministry as well as representatives for Chariot group.

A CBI spokesperson said in a statement that a case had been registered against the Deputy Director of Environment and Forest Ministry and two other persons (Consultants of Bhubaneswar-based private firm).

The sources said Khatri is alleged to have been involved in several cases of this nature and was under surveillance of the agency.

After getting information about the bribe, the agency laid a trap and arrested Khatri and Chinmaya near Adhchini in South Delhi along with the money.

Repeated phone calls to Chariot group's headquarter did not result in any response as the receptionist maintained that no official was available. The mails sent to the address given on their website also bounced.

Meanwhile, both the arrested accused were produced before a court which has granted them four days of CBI custody.

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