MoEF deputy director held for taking bribe, Rs 1 crore seized

The CBI on Thursday claimed to have recovered Rs 1.04 crore from a deputy director of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, who was arrested last night for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 7 lakh for procuring environmental clearance for an Orissa-based company.

The official, identified as Neeraj Khatri, 45, was reportedly found to own properties worth Rs 5 crore in the National Capital Region. The alleged middleman, Rai Sri Chinmaya Srichandan, was also arrested. Both were sent to four days police custody.

CBI officials said Srichandan owns S S Environics, a Bhubaneswar-based consultant firm which allegedly lobbied for environment clearance for Chariot Steel and Power Pvt Ltd's Raiboga limestone mine in Orissa. The matter was scheduled to be discussed by the expert appraisal committee Thursday.

The CBI has also named Srichandan's father, Rai Sri Achutananda Srichandan, in its FIR and is set to summon the owners and promoters of Chariot Steel. Despite repeated attempts, both S S Environics and Chariot Steel could not be contacted. An e-mail sent to Chariot Steel remained unanswered at the time of filing the report.

The CBI seized Rs 82.50 lakh in cash from Khatri's residence in Gurgaon Sector 45, and another Rs 21.50 lakh from his apartment in Rohtak. Property papers in the names of his family members, including two flats in Gurgaon and one each in Chandigarh, Rohtak and Sonepat, were also seized.

Khatri is alleged to have taken bribes to arrange clearances for private mining firms in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in the past also.

The CBI is soon going to summon members of the committee that gave environment clearances to the private companies on Khatri's recommendation. "We have also sought from the environment ministry details of all the cases where Khatri's recommendation was used to give clearances," said a CBI official.

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