hile the CBI was dragging its feet in investigating this case, VGN filed a petition to quash the FIR in this regard. Surprisingly, the CBI, in its counter to the plea, took a strange stand. “The main allegation was criminal misconduct of the officials of the State Bank of India for its undue waiver of interest to the extent of Rs 53.50 crores in connivance with the other accused M/s Hindustan Teleprinters Limited and M/s VGN Developers (P) Limited when the sale proceeds of the subject land was appropriated towards loan account which caused wrongful loss of Rs 53.50 crores to the State Bank of India. While preparing the FIR, it was inadvertently mentioned that the loss to the Government of India was Rs 115 crores being the difference between the sale price (Rs 272 crores) and guideline value (Rs 387 crores). The loss was to the State Bank of India due to an undue waiver of interest to the extent of Rs 53.50 crores. The investigation is in progress.”
According to highly placed sources in the CBI, Nageshwar Rao was the one who took the decision not to conduct any searches. Enquiries in the CBI and in Odisha revealed that Nageshwar Rao was a highly corrupt officer, who was mired in allegations in his parent cadre Odisha. Without any verification/vetting, Rao was inducted into the CBI with an active recommendation by the former Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, say sources. Rao, being a native of Warangal, was close with many Telugu speaking officers in TN, and former CS Rama Mohana Rao was a close buddy. It was Nageshwar Rao and Rama Mohana Rao, who decided to give a silent burial to the case against VGN, revealed sources. As a follow up to this understanding, the CBI took a stand before the Madras HC, that the loss in VGN case is only a meagre Rs 53.50 crores.
However, the Madras High Court saw through this design and dismissed the petition by observing that “the property originally belonged to the State Government assigned to HTL, to set up an industry. The SIDCO, through which the Government has assigned the land to HTL has given NOC to sell the property subject to discharge of HTL.”
At this stage, the Enforcement Directorate registered a separate case and attached the Guindy property of VGN to the extent of Rs 115 crores. VGN came out with a public notice, trying to clear the air. In the public notice, VGN said that “CBI which is the prime investigation agency itself, has informed the court that the loss to the government was only Rs 53.50 crores because the SBI has given interest waiver to HTL”. This claim of VGN is far from the truth.
If at all the CBI bothered to conduct any proper investigation, the enormity of the scam and the overwhelming evidence available could have been unearthed. The documents, which are in the possession of savukku, were never collected by the agency and instead the agency was very keen to give a clean chit to VGN and other officials. At this juncture, a detailed complaint was sent to the Director of CBI, against Nageshwar Rao.
Nageshwar Rao failed to issue any clear instructions with regards to the investigation of this case or monitor the progress of this investigation. However, he had ensured that he is always kept in the loop with regard to any developments. Though the allegation as per the FIR is that the land in dispute, which was purchased by VGN developers, was purchased below market price, there are widespread allegations of the involvement of two senior IAS officers of TN cadre who facilitated the issuance of NOC for the sale. Sources also claim that one Rama Mohana Rao, who was a former Chief Secretary of the TN government, had also received sizeable money from the VGN promoters.
However, no investigation whatsoever has been conducted in this regard. Further, as per sources, the VGN Developers sent part of the bribe amount of Rs 2 crores intended for the SBI officials through one Ganesh Raj, retired Assistant General Manager of SBI. The VGN Developers sent Rs 80 lakhs of the bribe amount to HTL account. From the HTL account, the above-mentioned Ganesh Raj transferred the amount to his account, later encashed the same and handed over the bribe amounts in cash to A.1 Leon Therattil and A.2 Ramadoss. A simple verification of the bank accounts of Ganesh Raj and HTL would have revealed evidence of bribery. But, Nageshwar Rao, chose not to touch any crucial area of investigation.
(This is the third part of the Editorial and the last part will continue tomorrow.)
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