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Railway bribery: Cong defends Bansal, says BJP has double standards


Bhupendra Chaubey,CNN-IBN
Jul 06, 2013 at 09:17am IST

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New Delhi: The Congress and the BJP are yet again at loggerheads after the Central Bureau of Investigation gave a clean chit to former railways minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in the railway bribery case. The Congress hit out at the BJP and defended Bansal saying he has done no wrong.

"Is there any evidence against Pawan Bansal? If someone from his relation does what he has done, has he been left? He has been prosecuted. Is there any evidence against Bansal on record or phone," questioned Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh.

ALSO SEE Railway bribery: Phone transcripts raise questions over clean chit to Bansal

He accused the BJP of having double standards, saying, "Why does the BJP applaud when the CBI takes action against Congress and why does it object when someone close to them is brought under scrutiny. Is it not a double standard," asked Digvijaya Singh.

Bansal was given a clean chit in the Rs 10 crore cash-for-post railway bribery case by the CBI, which on Thursday said that there was no evidence to prove that the former Railways Minister was involved in any illegal deal. The investigative agency also said that no conversation happened between Bansal and his nephew Vijay Singla which can be linked to the case.

The CBI said that Bansal was not in the know of the deals being carried out between Singla and another accused Sandeep Goel. The agency added that the case is closed now and no investigation is pending.

The CBI also named Bansal as prosecution witness in the case and said that Singla was the "main person" whose influence was to be used to get a Railway Board Member appointed to a post seen as "lucrative".

The BJP, in a response to the development, said that how can an accused be made a witness. "He is an accused, he cannot be a witness. If he is being portrayed as the witness, then there is something wrong in the functioning of the system," BJP national general secretary Ananth Kumar said.

Phone transcripts raise questions over clean chit to Bansal

CNN-IBN has accessed transcripts of phone conversations between key players in the Railway bribery scam, which forced the then Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to resign after his nephew Vijay Singla was caught with almost Rs 1 crore in cash for fixing the appointment of a senior Railways officer, Mahesh Kumar.

The telephone transcripts give details of how Singla was using his network to fix the posting of Mahesh Kumar. Railway vendor Manjunath, who is close to Mahesh Kumar, is quoted in one of the transcripts saying, "We are giving Rs 1 crore immediately. We don't have more in black. We will have to convert white money into black. That will take time. Also please tell Vijay Singla to promote Mahesh Kumar to the post of Member Electrical."

It all began with Mahesh Kumar, who desperately wanted to be promoted to the post of Member Electrical. Investigations have revealed that Kumar was willing to pay any price to get this.

The following conversations explain how the ball got rolling:

Phone transcripts:

Narayan Rao Manjunath: I can fix a meeting with Sandeep Goyal if you want. Goyal is very close to the Railways Minister and he can get you promoted as Member Electrical. Should I go ahead?

Mahesh Kumar: Go ahead and fix the meeting.

Following this conversation, a meeting allegedly took place between Mahesh Kumar, Manjunath and Sandeep Goyal in Taj Palace, Mumbai on the March 30, 2013. The very next day, Goyal allegedly called his friend Ajay Garg.

Phone transcript (March 31, 2013):

Sandeep Goyal: We met Mahesh Kumar yesterday. He wants to meet Vijay Singla directly.

Ajay Garg: Let him meet Vijay then, what is the problem?

Sandeep Goyal: You please arrange a meeting between Vijay Singla and Mahesh Kumar in Delhi.

On April 7, 2013, Mahesh Kumar allegedly met Singla at the official residence of the then Railways Minister.

Phone transcript of a conversation between Sandeep Goyal and Manjunath (April 8, 2013):

Sandeep Goyal: We met yesterday.

Manjunath: Then?

Sandeep Goyal: Mahesh Kumar wants to be Member Electrical. I think we will be able to get it done.

Sandeep Goyal speaks to Mahesh Kumar (March 17, 2013):

Sandeep Goyal: Please call up Vijay Singla once and remind him. He is at the residence of the Railways Minister and you can call him on his landline number.

Mahesh Kumar: Okay.

As per the CBI's chargesheet, Mahesh Kumar called up Singla immediately at the official landline number of Bansal. After the conversation, Mahesh Kumar told Manjunath to go and meet Vijay Singla in Chandigarh.

Mahesh Kumar: You please go to Delhi and meet Vijay Singla. He wants to discuss something about the transfer.

Manjunath: Okay.

Mahesh Kumar: Also tell him that I am sending a Rs 200 crore proposal to the Railway Board. He will benefit from it.

In the subsequent conversation, he allegedly told Mahesh Kumar to go to Chandigarh instead.

Mahesh Kumar: You will now go to Chandigarh on April 19. Vijay Singla's mobile number is xxxxx. And tell him we will give a catering contract to his company. Also add that Mahesh Kumar will be very helpful to him and his friend Sandeep Goyal.

According to the chargesheet, a Rs 10 crore deal was struck on April 19. But the subsequent phone conversation suggests the deal wasn't working out.

Mahesh Kumar: You tell Sandeep Goyal that if Member Electrical isn't working out then make me Member Staff, and let me hold additional charge of S&T and GM Western Railways.

Manjunath: Absolutely.

Conversation between Manjunath and Sandeep Goyal:

Manjunath: Please arrange additional charge of S&T, GM Western Railways with Member Staff Charge.

Sandeep Goyal: You are asking for a lot, it will cost Rs 5 crore and nothing less.

Manjunath then allegedly spoke to Mahesh Kumar.

Manjunath: They are asking for Rs 5 crore.

Mahesh Kumar: That's too much.

Manjunath: Let us do one thing, we will tell them that we will give 25 per cent if you are made Member Electrical and Rs 2 crore if you are made Member Staff with additional charge of S&T and GM Western Railway.

Mahesh Kumar: That sounds fine.

The CBI said Manjunath conveyed this to Sandeep Goyal on April 30 and Goyal agreed to take Rs two crore as initial payment. But at this point, Mahesh Kumar got desperate.

Mahesh Kumar: Arrange Rs 2 crore. If you are having problems, then start speaking to other railway vendors. Tell them I will oblige them all.

Manjunath: Fine.

Manjunath then allegedly roped in three other vendors to collect the entire sum.

Phone transcript (April 30, 2013):

Manjunath: We will give you Rs one crore and the balance in four to five days.

Sandeep Goyal: Okay.

Phone transcript (April 30, 2013):

Mahesh Kumar: Tell Sandeep Goyal we will pay him the remaining Rs one crore after the work is done.

Manjunath: Okay.

Phone transcript (April 30, 2013):

Manjunath: We are giving Rs 1 crore immediately. We don't have more in black. We will have to convert white money into black. That will take time. Also please tell Vijay Singla to promote Mahesh Kumar to the post of Member Electrical

Sandeep Goyal: Okay.

On May 1, Mahesh Kumar was promoted to the post of Member Staff

Phone transcript (May 2, 2013):

Sandeep Goyal: What happened?

Manjunath: Rs 90 lakh is available.

Sandeep Goel: Send it.

Manjunath: Where?

Sandeep Goyal: Singla's Chandigarh office.

On March 3, the total money was delivered by two couriers to Singla's residence. The CBI team raided the premises and arrested Singla. Bansal has been named as the 39th prosecution witness in the case in which Singla, the then Member (Staff) of Railway Board Mahesh Kumar and eight others have been named accused for the offence of criminal conspiracy under the IPC and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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