NEW DELHI (TIP): CBI investigators were stumped on June 5 when former railway minister Pawan Bansal claimed his nephew Vijay Singla was acting independently in an alleged case of cash-for-appointment scandal despite telephone intercepts showed frequent references to the leader. Tapes with CBI have recorded conversations in which Bansal’s name has been used to allegedly clear the posting of suspended railway board member Mahesh Kumar in lieu of money, but Bansal maintained during a meeting with investigators that “Vijay Singla was acting independently”.
Bansal was questioned for the first time for six hours at CBI’s Jamnagar guest house here in the railway bribery scandal and the former minister denied all the allegations leveled against him. Sources say Bansal was interrogated in the capacity of a ‘suspect’ and was quizzed mainly on two aspects of the ‘jobs-for-sale’ scam. He was asked if he was aware of transactions between Singla and Kumar, and if norms were followed in the appointment of the arrested railway official. Sources said, “Mahesh Kumar’s appointment as member staff has no irregularities as he was the senior-most member in line.
We asked the former minister about additional charge of GM (West) and promise made by Singla to Kumar that he would be made Member (Electrical) after retirement of present Member (Electrical). He has denied having any knowledge about any deal”. Singla had received Rs 90 lakh bribe collected by middlemen on behalf of Kumar when he was arrested by CBI. The deal was fixed for Rs 10 crore to make Kumar Member (Electrical).
“The movement of file which led to appointment of Mahesh Kumar as Member (Staff) and the GM had happened even before money was delivered. We have not found anything yet to suggest that norms were not followed by Bansal but we have to verify several things,” said a source. Bansal was also asked number of questions about his meetings with Kumar and other suspected persons being probed by agency. Officials say that to probe former railway minister’s role as a suspect in the case, they have to find the money trail to him.
The sources said Bansal was called at 11am at the CBI guest house located five km from the agency’s headquarters to avoid presence of heavy contingent of media that had gathered outside the headquarters and he was questioned in two sessions. They said he was grilled till 6.45pm with a break of about one and a half hours in between for lunch. Bansal was also reportedly confronted with recorded conversations between Singla and other arrested accused. Bansal has claimed during questioning that his meetings with Kumar during his Mumbai visits were part of protocol as Kumar was the GM and it was imperative for him as the railway minister to meet him.