Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Railgate: The signal came from an insider

Aman Sharma, ET Bureau May 6, 2013,
(Cops outside PK Bansal’s…)
NEW DELHI: A tip-off from a disgruntled officer three months ago led CBI to eventually arrest railway minister PK Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla red-handed while accepting a bribe, plunging the government into yet another crisis.

The officer was feeling slighted by the efforts of the Western Railways' general manager Mahesh Kumar to secure the post of member (electrical) on the Railway Board by paying off a hefty sum to Singla, a person familiar with the matter told ET. The CBI was told that Singla was in touch with Kumar through his conduit Sandeep Goyal and a deal was being worked out, the person added.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha, who had earlier served as the director general of the Railway Protection Force, put his best sleuths on the job. The agency tapped the phones of both Kumar and Singla, recording hundreds of minutes of their cell-phone conversations, before nabbing Singla accepting Rs 90 lakh as the first instalment of the agreed amount of `10 crore in Chandigarh on Friday.
With the Railway Board chief Vinay Mittal retiring on June 30 and several other posts also falling vacant, Kumar was eyeing the position that could pave the way for him to head the board before his retirement in two years. The post of member (electrical), which happens to be the most lucrative post since it handles projects worth crores of rupees, was slated to fall vacant since the incumbent, Kulbhushan, was tipped to replace Mittal as the board chief.
CBI on Sunday confronted Singla and Kumar to ascertain the ultimate beneficiary of the bribe amount and to probe how Singla planned to swing the appointment in Kumar's favour. The agency planned to question Bansal and his two sons, an official said, adding that it was preparing a written questionnaire that it could pose to Bansal.
A CBI spokesperson told ET the agency had found nothing against Bansal. "As of now, there is no role of the minister. The trail of the money ends at Vijay Singla and Sandeep Goyal who were apprehended accepting the bribe amount," CBI spokesperson Dharini Mishra said. She denied reports that the CBI director acted against Kumar due to a grudge against him during his stint in RPF. "Sinha has never known Kumar," Mishra said.
As per a CBI FIR, Kumar was unhappy at being appointed member (staff) of the Railway Board on May 1. Kumar tried to get the additional charge of GM of both Western Railways and Signal& Telecommunication, for which he was asked to pay another Rs 2 crore. Kumar asked a Bangalore-based railway contractor, Narayan Rao Manjunath, to arrange the amount in lieu of contracts that he promised to award Manjunath in future. When the first instalment of Rs 90 lakh arranged by Manjunath reached Singla and Gupta, CBI was patiently lying in wait.


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