In an embarrassment to the UPA government at the Centre, the CBI, on Friday, caught railway minister and Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla red-handed from Chandigarh while accepting a bribe of Rs. 90 lakh on behalf of a senior railway officer who wanted a "lucrative" posting.
The CBI also arrested Mahesh Kumar, a railway board member (staff), soon after he landed at the Mumbai airport from Delhi on charges of paying the first instalment of Rs. 90 lakh meant for Singla. The deal was allegedly struck for Rs. 2 crore.
Singla, who had allegedly received Rs. 90 lakh in Chandigarh on behalf of Kumar, was being questioned till late in the night in the Sector 28 corporate office of his upcoming commercial complex, Acropolis, in Chandigarh, from where he was arrested at about 7 pm along with Sandeep Goyal, also said to be Bansal's relative.
According to the CBI, Bangalore-based Manjunath, who appeared to have mobilised the money on behalf of the railway board member, has also been named in the FIR along with Goyal.
At about 11 pm, the CBI raided Singla's house (no. 105) in Sector 28, Chandigarh. The raid, conducted to search for case-related documents and any unaccounted cash, continued till late at night. "We raided the house after getting a call from the CBI branch in Delhi," said a CBI official, reluctant to disclose further details.
Raids were also carried out at Goyal's house in Sector 16.
Kumar was appointed as member (staff) just two days ago and wanted to be appointed member (electrical), a post which was to fall vacant on July 1. "The new post would have empowered him to influence advanced signalling and telecom contracts worth Rs. 2,300 crore," a CBI officer said.
The railway board is the highest decision-making body of the railways.
Bansal could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts. The mobile phones of all local Congress leaders were found switched off. Security was beefed up around Bansal's house soon after Singla's arrest.
Singla is said to be Bansal's right-hand man and takes care of his business as well. He reportedly used to generate funds for Bansal's elections.
Chandigarh BJP president Sanjay Tandon said the party would hold a protest over the issue on Saturday. Former Chandigarh MP and senior BJP leader Satya Pal Jain has demanded Bansal's resignation. "Singla and Goyal are closely associated with Bansal. They enjoy the railway minister's patronage for indulging in illegal activities," he said.
Raiding team faces resistance
The raiding CBI team, which arrived at Singla's house at 11 pm, was not allowed to enter for about half an hour. CBI officials also had a minor scuffle with a neighbour who was denied access to Singla's house, a few yards away from Bansal's residence.
Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's nephew (sister's son) Vijay Singla is a businessman in his early 40s. Singla is the owner of upcoming commercial complex "Acropolis", a venture of Mirage Infra Limited, in Industrial Area, Phase 1, Chandigarh (plot number 68). He had recently bought 100 acres of land in Dera Bassi for a housing project. His palatial house in Sector 28, Chandigarh is spread over 4 kanals.