CBI lodges second FIR on Gomti river front project; 189 officials, contractors booked

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New Delhi/Lucknow, Jul 5 (PTI) The CBI has registered a case against 189 people, including 16 government servants, for alleged irregularities in the Rs 1,437-crore Gomti river front development project in Lucknow undertaken during the tenure of the Samajwadi Party (SP) government in Uttar Pradesh headed by Akhilesh Yadav, according to officials, who said this was one of the highest numbers of people booked by the agency on a single FIR.

After registering the case, the agency sleuths swooped down on 42 locations spread across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Alwar in Rajasthan and Kolkata in West Bengal, they said.

The agency had registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) into the case, which was converted into an FIR against 16 officials and 173 contractors and their firms on June 2 and was made public on Monday to ensure a smooth conduct of searches in connection with the case.

Uttar Pradesh is going to polls in the first quarter of the next year.

This was one the highest numbers of people named in a CBI case. Earlier, 587 people were booked in connection with the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh.

This is the second FIR related to the project by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). An earlier FIR has already covered work orders worth over Rs 1,031 crore.

In the present FIR, in which 16 officials, including chief engineers, and 173 contractors are accused, the agency has said 30 notices inviting tenders are under the scanner.

Of these, only five were published in newspapers while the remaining 25 forged letters were sent to the Department of Information and Publication to show compliance, it has alleged.

The CBI has listed several similar irregularities, including awarding tenders on the basis of forged documents and forgery in the publication of notices inviting tenders, according to the FIR.

The PE also showed 27 work orders over Rs 1 lakh each, including one for the import of an international-standard musical fountain worth over 55.95 lakh Euros (Rs 49.3 crore at the present exchange rate) from the Aquatique Show in Strasbourg, France, were issued without any tender.

This was in violation of government orders, which stipulate that no order of above Rs 1 lakh can be awarded without a tender, the CBI has said.

The quotation notice for the fountain was issued by Akhil Raman, the then superintendent engineer, and it was genuinely published, it has added.

'However, prior to the issuance of the quotation notice, a normal tendering process notice was shown by Raman. This notice was not published and a forged receipt letter, a release order and copies of newspaper clippings were placed in the records,' an official said.

The estimate was approved on the basis of quotations of 2016. Roop Singh Yadav, another former superintendent engineer, directly wrote to the French company for signing the contract. He recommended for the issuance of a supply order for the company, the CBI has alleged.

S N Sharma, the then chief engineer, sought prior permission to import the material on August 27, 2016 and issued a supply order after four days without obtaining prior permission, it has alleged.

Sharma, Raman and Yadav abused their official positions and issued the supply order on quotation basis instead of tender basis, giving undue benefits to Aquatique Show, the agency has alleged.

In Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr district, the CBI sleuths raided the residence of contractor Rakesh Bhati in connection with the case, the officials said.

Bhati is also a member of the Congress.

In the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the SP, the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress will try to wrest power from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Uttar Pradesh minister Sidharth Nath Singh said the CBI searches indicate towards the misdeeds of the previous SP government in the state.

'We had earlier requested the CBI to speed up its probe in such scams. In the Gomti river front scam, the searches are on at the places of 16 engineers and 173 contractors,' he told reporters in Lucknow. PTI ABS ABN CORR SKL RC

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