The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CBI traces duo in Judeo scam

New Delhi, Nov. 22: The CBI has identified the man who cost Dilip Singh Judeo his crown as Rahul Suroagi, a businessman with interests in Chhattisgarh.

A week ago, the former junior environment minister was caught on video CD accepting a bundle of notes from one Rahul — who introduced himself as a representative of an Australian firm — in return for a mining lease. Judeo had to step down after the scandal erupted.

Sources said though they were definite that Suroagi was the man’s surname, they were yet to verify whether his first name was Rahul or it was an alias for a sting operation. But they were certain he belonged to Chhattisgarh, the state Judeo comes from.

The CBI has also managed to establish that the meetings were fixed up by a businessman, one Sekhar Singh.

Judeo’s additional private secretary Natwar Rataria, who was also caught on the dirt disc, has been tracked down, sources said. After The Sunday Express broke the story, Rataria had been on the run. The bureau traced him to Sarguja district in Chhattisgarh.

Rataria is believed to have disclosed vital information, including names and telephone numbers of two persons clued in on the goings-on behind the scenes.

The CBI has not been able to trace the duo so far. But it is optimistic about a breakthrough next week.

Some preliminary leads point to the son of a leading Chhattisgarh politician, who sent an e-mail to a friend abroad that a Tehelka-like sting operation was being planned. The CBI has traced the message.

The son is also understood to have handed a copy of the VCD to a Delhi-based TV channel. The CBI has seized this disc as well as the edited version beamed by the channel, sources said. Both will be sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory to test whether they have been doctored.

Sources said the CBI has already traced the room — no. 822 — of the five-star hotel in Delhi where the video was filmed. Apart from Judeo, Rataria and Rahul, there were four others in it. The bureau is trying to track the person who booked the room.

The CBI suspects the whole thing is a sting operation behind which there is a larger conspiracy. That the Chhattisgarh government has no record of any Australian firm approaching it for mining rights is an indication of a larger design, sources said.

Union information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today jumped to Judeo’s defence, alleging that Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi “knew something more” about the episode than was disclosed by the media at the time of breaking the news. “The CBI should take the help of Jogi on the issue and the chief minister should co-operate with the agency,” he said.

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