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Steel boss slips away, lens on CBI officers

New Delhi, Aug. 5: CBI director Ranjit Sinha has ordered an internal inquiry against four of his own officers for failing to arrest Bhushan Steel managing director Neeraj Singhal during a weekend raid in connection with a bribery case.

The officers allegedly fell for a claim by the “very courteous” Singhal — accused of bribing a PSU bank chief who is already in custody — during Saturday’s swoop at the Bhushan top gun’s bungalow that he would visit the CBI office the next day. Singhal can’t be traced now.

CBI chief Sinha said today he “had given clear directions that Singhal should be arrested”. “He was present when the CBI team raided his house. The team searched his residence but did not arrest him. Now, he is evading arrest. It is a very serious matter and I have ordered an inquiry into why the arrest was not made despite orders,” Sinha said.

Bhushan is one of India’s biggest steel companies with an annual turnover of Rs 9,675.83 crore in the previous financial year.

Bhushan executives used middlemen to pay a bribe of Rs 50 lakh in cash to Syndicate Bank chief S.K. Jain to extend the credit limit of the company despite failure to repay previous loans, according to CBI officers.

The agency had arrested Jain from a star hotel in Mumbai on Saturday, followed by seven others. Jain granted similar favours to Prakash Industries, another firm with loan problems, the CBI officers said. The two firms are also under the scanner in the coal block allocations.

Like Singhal, an alleged middleman, Purushottam Totlani, is also absconding.

“The CBI director is very unhappy with the officers of the anti-corruption wing who raided Singhal’s house,” said agency spokesperson Kanchan Prasad.

According to Prasad, Singhal told the sleuths that he would visit the CBI headquarters the next day (Sunday). “Singhal was very courteous when the raiding team reached his bungalow. Instead of arresting him, the officers issued him summons to appear before the agency on Sunday and left. They thought he would keep his word,” Prasad said.

Singhal’s whereabouts are unknown and raids are on in various places to track him down, the CBI officers said.