The main investigator into a “bribes-for-loans” scam involving several state-run and private firms has himself taken a bribe from one of the companies involved, said sources in the ministry of home affairs who declined to be identified.
There are also signs that the Central Bureau of Investigation’s Economic Offences Wing, which is investigating the case, is dragging its feet, the sources said.
“CBI officials have not questioned several people whose names figure again and again in the statements of the accused and witnesses,” said an official from the ministry who was familiar with the investigation.
The case involves high-ranking employees at state-run firms allegedly granting out-of-turn loans amounting to thousands of crores of rupees and revealing confidential information to private firms over the past two years. (See ‘Bribes-for-loans case’).
Gaurav Dani, a lawyer representing Vatika, one of the firms that benefited from the largesse, used an intermediary to pass on lakhs of rupees to N S Raju, deputy superintendent of police, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who is the case’s investigating officer, the sources said.
Dani called the allegation “nonsense”, while Raju did not return any of HT’s calls.
“We are verifying the allegation,” said P Kandaswamy, joint director, CBI’s Economic Offences Wing in Mumbai, to whom the ministry sent a letter describing the allegation against his subordinate Raju. He declined to say anything more.
A senior CBI official, however, denied that the agency was dragging its feet. He said that the Economic Offences Wing may not have questioned some people because it was investigating only the allegations of graft and not of illegal lending since it was empowered to look into cases involving amounts of only up to Rs. 20 crore.
“The CBI’s Bank Securities and Fraud Cell has begun investigating the other alleged improprieties,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
But sources said the allegation of graft against the investigating officer could weaken the entire case, just when the CBI was making progress.
Last month, it filed a charge sheet against one of the five state-run firm officials, Maninder Singh Johar, director at Central Bank of India. In November, its Economic Offences Wing arrested five officials from the state-run firms and three executives from Mumbai-based Money Matters (see ‘Arrested accused’) in connection with five cases.