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Railway bribery scam: Phone transcripts raise questions over Bansal's role

Former minister Pawan Bansal may have been given a clean chit by the CBI, but transcripts phone conversations between the key accused  the railway bribery scam has thrown light upon how the former minister's nephew Vijay Singla used his connections to secure a posting for former Railway Board member Mahesh Kumar.

The transcripts raise questions about the Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's role in the scam as the key players allegedly met in his official residence and also called on his land line to fix the appointment.

It raises questions on how Bansal was unaware of the deal when it was happening right under his nose.

Pawan Kumar Bansal. AFP

Pawan Kumar Bansal. AFP

Bansal was forced to resign from the post of Railway Minister after Singla was caught with Rs 1 crore in cash for fixing the appointment of  Kumar.

IBN-Live quotes Manjunath, who is close to Kumar, in one of the transcripts as 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."

Bansal was, however, given a clean chit by the CBI in the Rs 10 crore cash-for-post scam and also named a prosecution witness. CBI sources said they have concluded this case and did not find “prosecutable evidence” against Bansal.

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, reported IBN-Live.

Here is the conversation revealed in the transcript accessed by CNN-IBN:

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 30 March, 2013. The very next day, Goyal allegedly called his friend Ajay Garg.

Phone transcript (31 March, 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 Singhla and Mahesh Kumar in Delhi.

On 7 April, 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 (17 March, 2013):

Sandeep Goyal: Please call up Vijay Singhla 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 Singhla immediately at the official landline number of Bansal. After the conversation, Mahesh Kumar told Manjunath to go and meet Vijay Singhla in Chandigarh.

Mahesh Kumar: You please go to Delhi and meet Vijay Singhla. 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 19 April. Vijay Singhla'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 19 April. 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 percent 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 30 April and Goyal agreed to take Rs 2 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 (30 April, 2013):

Manjunath: We will give you Rs 1 crore and the balance in four to five days.

Sandeep Goyal: Okay.

Phone transcript (30 April, 2013):

Mahesh Kumar: Tell Sandeep Goyal we will pay him the remaining Rs 1 crore after the work is done.

Manjunath: Okay.

Phone transcript (30 April, 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 1 May, Mahesh Kumar was promoted to the post of Member Staff

Phone transcript (2 May, 2013):

Sandeep Goyal: What happened?

Manjunath: Rs 90 lakh is available.

Sandeep Goel: Send it.

Manjunath: Where?

Sandeep Goyal: Singla's Chandigarh office.

Besides Bansal, the CBI has also named ex-Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal, who retired from his post on 1 July this year, as a prosecution witness.

Railway Board’s Joint Secretary (confidential), P Rajeshkaran, and Joint Director Vigilance (Int), R Vijayan Nair, have also been named as witnesses by the CBI.

Besides them, several officials from various banks have been named as witnesses.

With inputs from PTI