Pramod Kumar, Asian Age Correspondent
New Delhi, 8 May 2013. CBI investigations into “Railgate” appear to be reaching the doorstep of railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, with key accused Mahesh Kumar, suspended member of the Railway Board, spilling the beans during its custodial interrogation on Tuesday.
Mr Kumar told interrogators that he paid `90 lakhs as the initial bribe only after Vijay Singla, Mr Bansal’s nephew (also under arrest), assured him that the railway minister had agreed to give him the additional charge of GM (Western Railway) in addition to being member (staff), Railway Board. This would have been in place till June this year, when Mr Kumar would have been made member (electrical), a post that he had
Ajay Garg, a close associate of the railway minister’s nephew, who was absconding, surrendered in court on Tuesday and has been remanded to two-day police custody. The CBI also carried out searches at the premises of Mahesh Kumar in Mumbai and claimed to have found property documents and diamond jewellery of substantial value, which were removed from his residence soon after his arrest.
Sources said the CBI had got a tipoff that some property-related documents, bank passbooks and jewellery were removed from his official residence by family members soon after news of his arrest flashed on television channels. The agency is likely to question a Railway Protection Force official who allegedly helped Mr Kumar’s wife to move documents and valuables from their official residence in Mumbai after news of Mr Kumar’s arrest broke.
The railway minister could be in for more trouble as CBI sources revealed key appointments could not have been carried out without clearance from the top. The CBI will also question some top railway officials and go through all files relating to recent appointments. The CBI is also likely to question the minister’s private secretary, Rahul Bhandari. Investigations revealed that Vijay Singla was in regular touch with Mr Bhandari and two other officials at the railway ministry.
The investigations also revealed that the bribe money was intended for “someone at the top” in the ministry. Mr Bansal, sources said, could be summoned for interrogation soon after the Budget Session of Parliament ends on Friday. It is learnt that pressure is mounting on the government to take prompt action against Mr Bansal.
The agency is also going through the records of at least 1,000 calls between Mr Singla and senior rail ministry officials. The agency is focusing on conversations between Mr Singla, his associate and railway equipment supplier Narayan Rao Manjunath, Mahesh Kumar and two other railway board members. The CBI will also question Mr Kumar in front of Mr Singla and try to identify the end beneficiary of the bribe amount, sources said.
At this juncture, Mr Singla and Mr Manjunath, both of whom are in CBI custody, are giving conflicting versions and hiding crucial information, the sources said. The CBI is looking at the option of conducting lie-detection and brain-mapping tests on both of them.
It may be recalled that the investigative agency had been tracking the railway minister’s nephew for the past three months. The agency also arrested two courier boys — Vivek and Dharmendra — in connection with the case.