The CBI has booked E S Ranganathan, director (marketing) of GAIL, and arrested five persons including alleged middlemen and businessmen in a case of alleged bribery of over ₹50 lakh for giving discounts to private companies buying petro chemical products marketed by the Maharatna PSU, officials said Saturday.

Following the registration of the case on Friday, the CBI conducted searches at about eight locations in Delhi-NCR including the office of Ranganathan at Bhikaji Kama Place in Delhi and his residence in Sector 62, Noida.

The CBI has so far recovered ₹1.3 crore in cash from Ranganathan's premises.

Besides Ranganathan, the agency has also booked middlemen Pawan Gaur and Rajesh Kumar, N Ramakrishnan Nair who had allegedly collected bribes, businessmen Saurabh Gupta and his Panchkula -based company United Polymer Industries and Aditya Bansal and his company Karnal-based Bansal Agency, they said. "CBI laid a trap and apprehended a private person (Gaur) and a director of a private company (Kumar) based at Delhi when the alleged bribe of ₹10 lakh was received by the private person from the said director of private company allegedly on behalf of director (marketing) GAIL, (Ranganathan)," CBI spokesperson RC Joshi said.

The agency has so far arrested five persons but Ranganathan has not yet been taken into custody. Searches at this premises are still on, sources said.

Those arrested are Gaur, Kumar, Nair, Gupta and Bansal. "Subsequent, searches were conducted at the premises of accused at Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Panchkula, Karnal etc, which led to recovery of . ₹84 lakh(approx), so far which include recovery of Rs 75 lakh from Gurgaon based private person. Searches are continuing at the premises of public servant," Joshi said. It is alleged that Ranganathan was "indulging into corrupt and illegal activities in criminal conspiracy" with Gaur and Kumar who is also director of Rishab Polychem Pvt. Ltd based at Bahudargarh Road, Delhi.

‘Corrupt practices’

Kumar and Gaur allegedly acted as Ranganathan's middlemen, by obtaining bribe from the private companies buying petro chemical products marketed by the GAIL, the FIR alleged.

It said sources informed the CBI that at the direction of Kumar, Gaur had asked Ranganathan for allowing some discount to the buyers on petro chemical products being marketed by GAIL in return of illegal gratification. It is alleged that Kumar and Gaur met Ranganathan at his Noida residence on December 11 last year for discussing the proposal, the FIR alleged.

Two days later Gaur informed Kumar that proposal of discounts is being considered in GAIL, the FIR alleged.

In order to arrange bribes, Kumar got in touch with other prospective beneficiaries of discount, after the final decision is taken in GAIL on issuance of the discount order. Gaur, Kumar and Ranganathan again met at a five star hotel in Delhi on December 14 to discuss it further. "Source has further informed that on December 17, 2021, Rajesh collected the demanded bribe amount from beneficiary private parties and delivered it to Gaur for Ranganathan. Source has further informed that on December 18, 2021, on the direction of Ranganathan, Nair...has collected the said amount of Rs. 40 Lakh from the residence of Gaur. Thereafter on December 20, 2021, Gaur pursued Ranganathan for issuance of order, on which he had told him that he would sign after returning from Mumbai," an official said. Kumar allegedly roped in two more perspective beneficiaries -- Gupta and Bansal -- and convinced them for paying bribe in exchange for the favourable orders, the FIR alleged.

Kumar on January 13, told Gupta to fulfil his side commitment for issuance of discount order from GAIL and put forth alleged demand of ₹12 lakh from Ranganathan, it alleged. Gaur also told Gupta to send money at the earliest after which he allegedly paid Rs three lakh to Kumar while remaining was to be sent through hawala route, it said. "...Ranganathan on the request of Pawan Gaur and Rajesh Kumar got some checks conducted in the month of November, 2021 in the premises of some authorised stockists of GAIL. However, before the said surprise check, Sh. E.S. Ranganathan had also cautioned some of his favoured parties," the FIR alleged.

The CBI has booked the accused under IPC sections of criminal conspiracy and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, they said.