New Delhi, India (Urban Transport News): The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team has filed a corruption case against former Managing Director of National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL) Satish Agnihotri, who was in-charge of the Govt of India's prestigious bullet train project, to probe allegations of a quid pro quo in a deal he allegedly struck with a private company during his nine-year tenure as Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd.
In 2021, the Centre had appointed Satish Agnihotri as Managing Director of NHSRCL after his retirement. However, the Railways terminated his services in July this year following a June 2 Lokpal court order directing the CBI to initiate a corruption probe. The CBI’s FIR is based on the Lokpal order — the agency has endorsed the complaint filed with the Lokpal along with the order.
The FIR was filed on the complaint of one Dilip Potalia alleging diversion of government funds to the tune of Rs 1,100 crore by Agnihotri. CBI’s anti corruption branch has booked Agnihotri under IPC Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 13 (2, 1D and 1C) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Krishnapatnam Rail Co Ltd has also been named as an accused in the FIR.
Quoting the Lokpal order, the FIR reads that there are some aspects of the allegations against Agnihotri which need to be looked into in detail. “It has been alleged that RPS-1’s son and daughter were employed by the private companies that had some official dealings with the company that RPS-1 (Agnihotri) was employed in. Whether this was an arrangement or an understanding which could be termed as quid pro quo, needs to be investigated into”, the order says.
“Whether RPS-1 used his influence in RVNL while awarding any of the contacts/works to NECL or any of its sisters concerns, either during his incumbency or later, also needs to be investigated into,” it further states.
At the heart of the allegations lies Agnihotri’s alleged ties with Hyderabad-based Navayuga Engineering Company Limited (NECL), which owns the Krishnapatnam Rail Company Limited (KRCL), a Special Purpose Vehicle, formed to lay railway lines to the Krishnapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh. RVNL, which Agnihotri headed, was the contractor for the project, and also owned a minority stake in the company.
The complainant in the Lokpal case has alleged that Agnihotri as RVNL chief diverted railway funds to the tune of Rs 1,100 crore (which would amount to Rs 1,600 crore with interest) to KRCL for years, even when KRCL could not arrange for funds itself to pay RVNL for the work that it did. Since RVNL was a partner in the company, it was easier for officials to turn a blind eye to the irregularity.