CBI arrests two more officials in Northeast Frontier Railway bribery case

NEW DELHI: Widening the net in one of its biggest bribe-trap cases, the CBI has arrested two more senior officials of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), who were involved with Chief Administrative Officer (Construction) Mahender Singh Chauhan in allegedly seeking Rs one crore from a Guwahati-based firm for granting favours in awarding contracts to it, officials said on Monday.

The agency is also tracking the “hawala” operator who had helped Pawan Baid, a director of accused company ABCI Infrastructures, to transfer the bribe amount of Rs one crore in cash to Delhi on January 16, from where Baid’s employee Bhupendra Rawat allegedly ferried it to Dehradun to deliver it to a relative of Chauhan on Sunday.

The agency has arrested Deputy Chief Engineer Hem Chand Borah and Assistant Executive Engineer Laxmi Kant Verma — posted in Agartala — after it nabbed Chauhan on Sunday from Maligaon in Assam’s Guwahati, where the NFR head office is located.

Besides Chauhan, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had already arrested his son-in-law Indra Singh and Rawat from Dehradun, where the bribe amount was allegedly being delivered, the officials said.

Along with the five arrested accused, the CBI has booked the company and its director Baid for criminal conspiracy and bribery under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act, they said.

All the accused were produced before competent courts in Uttarakhand, Tripura and Assam on Monday, the agency said.

During searches, the CBI seized Rs 18.5 lakh and Rs 6.5 lakh in cash from the premises of Borah and Verma respectively, taking the total amount of cash seized so far in the case to Rs 2.39 crore, it said.

“This includes an alleged bribe of Rs one crore which exchanged hands yesterday. (it) is stated to be one of the biggest bribe money trapped. In addition, Rs 60 lakh was recovered from Dehradun and Rs 54 lakh from Guwahati premises of CAO yesterday. Besides this, there has been recovery of jewellery and documents related to property from these locations,” CBI spokesperson R C Joshi said in a statement.

The agency has conducted searches at 26 locations spread across the country, including in Delhi, Uttrakhand, Assam, Tripura and West Bengal.

It is alleged that Chauhan (58) had demanded the bribe to show favours to Guwahati-based ABCI Infrastructures Private Limited in awarding contracts for various projects in the NFR, the officials said.

“The contractors were allegedly being facilitated in awarding the contracts, processing of subsequent bills, release of payments etc. by the public functionaries in lieu of illegal gratifications,” Joshi said.

The agency has alleged that Baid was in contact with Chauhan in connection with various ongoing projects in the Northeast Frontier region.

“It was also alleged that on his demand, the said Director, through his employee, got delivered bribe of Rs one crore to the relative (private person) of said CAO at his residence in Dehradun,” the statement said.

After getting inputs, the CBI laid a trap, deploying its teams at various locations in Uttarakhand and Assam.

One of the teams swooped in on the accused after the bribe was delivered and the accused were taken into custody.

After questioning and searches, the officer was also arrested.