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CBI Registers Bribery Case Against Eight HAL Employees

A case against HAL employees, irrespective of its merit, may now attain political connotations as only recently, Congress president Rahul Gandhi was invited by HAL to make a speech addressing its staff at a public function.

New Delhi: A day after the 1986-batch Odisha cadre IPS officer M. Nageshwar Rao took over as the new CBI director, the top investigative agency swiftly moved to charge eight employees of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with cheating the company of Rs 5 crore.

The case comes hot on the heels of a raging controversy over the Rafale deal in which the public sector undertaking HAL was allegedly sidelined by the Narendra Modi government in a renegotiated Rs 60,000 crore deal in favour of the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence Limited.

On October 24, the Modi government sent the sitting CBI director and his deputy Rakesh Asthana on leave after the war between the two became public. An FIR was registered against Asthana – said to be close to multiple officials at the PMO – by the CBI in a bribery and corruption case a week ago, followed by Asthana’s complaint to the CVC in which he alleged that Verma was interfering and impeding his probe in different cases.

Also Read: Why the Modi Government’s Ouster of Alok Verma Is Likely to Face Legal Challenge

The clash in CBI assumed greater significance when it was reported that officials in the PMO may have been wary of the fact that Verma wanted an investigation on the Rafale deal. The probe would have necessarily put the Modi government, which has been under a sustained attack by the opposition on the issue, in the dock.

Further, what raised eyebrows was the way new CBI director Rao showed alacrity in transferring 13 top officials of the agency to different parts of India soon after he took over the charge from Verma. All these officers were probing charges against Asthana, who is embroiled in six cases of corruption.

The Congress has consistently attacked BJP for the renegotiated Rafale Deal. Credit: Special arrangement.

In this context, a case against HAL employees, irrespective of its merit, may now attain political connotations as only recently, Congress president Rahul Gandhi was invited by HAL to make a speech addressing its staff at a public function. Gandhi had been accusing the Union government of cronyism for cancelling the original Rafale deal in which HAL was supposed to be the offset partner for the French defence sector giant, Dassault Aviation, and allegedly putting pressure on the French company to choose Reliance as its business associate.

NDTV reported that the CBI has registered a corruption case against eight HAL officers for allegedly routing “company funds amounting to Rs 5 crore to certain contractors through fraudulent means between January and August” this year. Those named in the case are Bhaben Maitra, Abinash Kumar Sarkar, Subhashree Das, Jayaram Garada, Bipra Charana Maharana, Jisudan Khosla, Urdhab Khola and Sadananda Nayak and some “unknown officials”. The complainant in the FIR is one Uday Kumar Raut, manager (vigilance) of HAL’s Engines Division in Koraput, Odisha.

The FIR quotes Raut as saying that earlier this month, an internal half-yearly audit revealed that Maitra, senior manager (finance) of the Engine Division at Koraput, approved multiple payment vouchers for contractors without seeking the “requisite bills and work orders”.

NDTV said that the “the HAL vigilance department seized a pen drive, mobile handsets, a cash voucher register, a cash office advises register, a diary and three master files after an investigation.”

Also Read: Fact Check: BJP’s Claim on Why HAL Was Dropped From Rafale Deal Just Doesn’t Fly

It was also reported that the contractors who benefitted from the fraudulent transactions were Jayaram Garada, Bipra Charana Maharana, Jisudan Khosla, Urdhab Khosla and Dadananda Nayak. ANI reported that the case was registered under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 409 (breach of trust), 420 (cheating and forgery), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), and 471 (forged documents used) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

According to the letter produced by the CBI, Maitra has been suspended pending an inquiry which began on October 7. The letter claims that the case was handed over to the CBI because it involved possible “bribery, corruption, forgery and criminal breach of trust”. However, it is unclear why HAL bypassed the Odisha police to hand over a seemingly regular case of corruption involving a few officials to the top investigative agency.