09 may 2013
Railway bribery scam: How the CBI chased and arrested Mahesh Kumar
New Delhi/Mumbai: On the evening of May 3, sketchy details reached news desks about a nephew of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal being accused of taking a bribe. There was some mention of a senior official called Mahesh Kumar, but no more details.
Some hours later, came the news that both men – Vijay Singla, a businessman and Mr Bansal’s nephew, and Mahesh Kumar, member (staff) on the Railway board had been arrested. Rs. 90 lakh in alleged bribe money had been recovered, it was learnt.
Days later, details have emerged of a dramatic chase that led to the arrests and the unearthing of a massive scandal that has shaken the Central government and seen Parliament disrupted.
On that Friday night, CBI sources say, investigators who had been following leads, including listening to over a 1000 phone conversations, allegedly caught Mr Singla with the money. Mahesh Kumar was nowhere to be found.
The CBI then traced his phone signal to Mahipalpur in Delhi and concluded that he was on his way to the airport to fly to Mumbai where he had lived while serving as Head of Railways, Western region, before taking over his new assignment in Delhi two days before.
Hot on the trail of Mr Kumar, the CBI tried to put a lid on the news of Mr Singla’s arrest till they caught him. A team of investigators was dispatched to the Mumbai airport with a single instruction – go through every passenger list from all flights to Mumbai and arrest Mahesh Kumar.
In Chandigarh, however, some intrepid journalists got to know of Mr Singla’s arrest and that there were allegations of bribe-taking. The CBI refused to confirm the news, fearing that Mahesh Kumar would escape if he saw the news aired on TV.
The agency’s best efforts could not prevent some channels from airing the few details they had.
Mahesh Kumar in the meantime slipped through the CBI’s hands at the Delhi airport, and the agency alerted the Mumbai branch and local police that he was headed there.
Mr Kumar was airborne by the time his name started flashing on TV screens, but his wife in Mumbai saw it and called a Railway Protection Force inspector, someone who her husband had worked closely with before, and allegedly asked him to come remove crucial and incriminating documents from her house.
CBI sources said the inspector and Mrs Kumar hired a cab and moved files, jewellery, cash and bond certificates to a godown at a distant location.
Mahesh Kumar was arrested at the Mumbai airport and was taken to his house. The police found neither his wife nor any evidence to incriminate the Railways official there.
Mrs Kumar reportedly returned home at 11pm.
Mumbai cops traced the cab that she had hired and managed to pry details of her trip from the taxi driver, sources said. And recovered the files and other assets two days later.