Bribe case: Excise official, middleman sent to CBI custody

A central excise official and an alleged middleman were Tuesday remanded to four days' custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by a special court here for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs.60 lakh from mobile phone importers.

A central excise commissioner is also an accused in the case but has not been arrested as he is in hospital with a heart treatment. The other two accused were arrested in central Delhi Monday.

CBI Special Judge Talwant Singh remanded central excise superintendent Lallan Ojha and middleman Hemant Gandhi to custody till Jan 7, saying: "The other accused are yet to be arrested and these two accused persons are required to be confronted with each other and with evidence collected."

Four days are sufficient for further custodial interrogation, the judge said.

The CBI had sought seven days' custodial interrogation of the accused to unearth the conspiracy and confront the accused with other suspects of the case.

The probe agency registered a case against the two accused along with Central Excise Commissioner A.K. Srivastava for allegedly seeking bribe from two mobile phones importers.

Srivastava is in a hospital where he has undergone angioplasty.

"Gandhi has close contacts with Srivastava and other officials of the department, he is acting as a middleman for these officials of the department for obtaining illegal gratification by corrupt and illegal means from businessmen," said the court.

According to the CBI, Ojha Dec 28, along with a team of officials of central excise, conducted a surprise raid at the warehouse of Dilip Aggarwal and Anand Aggarwal and negotiated illegal gratification.

"Initially an illegal gratification of Rs.2 crore was demanded, which was finally settled for Rs.6.000,000. The middleman collected illegal gratification of Rs.2,000,000 as well as a bearer cheque of the same amount from the importer for not taking any action against him," the CBI's first information report said.

Ojha asked Gandhi to bring Rs.3 lakh as share of his illegal gratification obtained from the businessmen. The money was recovered from the car of Ojha parked at the Central Revenue building at ITO in central Delhi Jan 2, the CBI told the court.

The CBI also recovered a cheque of Rs.20 lakh along with other evidence.

"The businessman was forced to pay Rs.20 lakh cash and give a Rs.20 lakh cheque under threat, made by Ojha and the same were collected by Gandhi," the court said.

The probe agency has booked the accused under various sections of the prevention of corruption law.

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