CBI books three MPs over fraudulent LTC claims

The CBI has booked three sitting Rajya Sabha members and three former MPs for submitting fake and inflated travel bills to fraudulently avail Leave Travel Concession (LTC) claims running into lakhs of rupees.

The sitting MPs named in the case are D Bandopadhyay (Trinamool Congress), Brajesh Pathak (BSP) and Lalhming Liana (Mizo National Front) while the former members are J P N Singh (BJP), Mahmood A Madani (RLD) and Renu Pradhan (BJD).

The new FIR in the LTC scam came six months after the agency registered a case in which JD(U) MP Anil Kumar Sahani and two others were booked.

The registration of a case against its MP left the Trinamool Congress fuming, with the party accusing the Narendra Modi-led Centre of using the CBI for “political vendetta”. “The CBI has registered six cases against three MPs and three ex-MPs and unknown private persons on the allegation that they claimed full payment on companion air tickets from Rajya Sabha Secretariat using fake e-tickets for travelling by Air India flight,” a CBI statement said. Searches were conducted at nine places in Delhi, including on the premises of three travel agents, and one place in Odisha.

Officials and MPs submitting fake and inflated air travel bills to fraudulently avail LTC claims came to light last year, prompting the Central Vigilance Commission to direct the CBI to probe the matter.

The signs of a fraud came after a probe by Air India’s Vigilance wing, which was alerted by the arrest of a man at Kolkata airport with 600 blank boarding passes of the airline.

Earlier, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat had also asked Air India to conduct an inquiry after it got suspicious LTC claims from some officials and MPs. Air India’s Vigilance Wing found that the serial numbers on the boarding passes did not match the AI inventory and were fake.

The modus operandi was that the agents, in connivance with passengers, would initially book an Air India ticket, then cancel it, and get a ticket from another airline to the same destination. The agents then would generate blank boarding pass  which is considered for the LTC scheme for the passenger to claim reimbursement.

In a statement, TMC said, “For years, the Congress government has used the CBI with a political motive. The BJP is following that sickening path.” TMC spokesperson Derek O’Brien said in a statement that the party condemns the attitude of using the CBI against opposition parties. “In a democratic setup, this is just not done,” he said.

“We note with concern and disgust this form of petty politics to malign a gentleman with more than 40 years’ copybook public life. This is a deliberate attempt to humiliate him. We will fight this in the way we have fought our battles for the last 35 years - politically and democratically,” he said.

Pradhan and Liana have also denied the charges.

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