Govt suspends GAIL director Ranganathan after CBI arrest

PTI, Jan 18, 2022, 8:07 PM IST

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New Delhi: The government has suspended E S Ranganathan, Director (Marketing) of GAIL (India) Ltd, after his arrest by the CBI over allegedly taking bribes to give discounts to private companies buying petrochemical products from the state-owned gas utility.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas on January 17 issued orders suspending Ranganathan from service, pending probe, official sources said.

Ranganathan, who was appointed Director (Marketing) of GAIL in July 2020, was to superannuate in May next year.

The CBI had on Friday evening started searches in connection with discounts that Ranganathan had allegedly promised to private companies in exchange for a bribe of Rs 50 lakh. On Saturday, it searched Ranganathan’s residence in Noida and his office at GAIL’s headquarters at Bhikaji Cama Place. The office was sealed and Ranganathan was questioned.

While CBI had arrested some persons of the private companies on Saturday itself, Ranganathan was arrested on January 16 after obtaining requisite sanctions, sources said.

Subsequent to his suspension, the ministry on Tuesday issued an order giving ”additional charge of director (marketing) to M.V. Iyer, Director (Business Development), GAIL for a period of three months from January 18, 2022 or till appointment of a regular incumbent to the post, or until further orders, whichever is the earliest.” GAIL in a regulatory filing on Tuesday said it has complied with the ministry order and entrusted an additional charge of the post of Director (Marketing), GAIL to Iyer.

On Monday, the company had informed the stock exchanges that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered an FIR against Ranganathan and other private persons on charges of criminal conspiracy, demand and obtaining undue advantage by public servant, taking undue advantage to influence public servant, bribing public servant etc.

”Further, CBI searched at the premise(s) of Shri E S Ranganathan, Director (Marketing) of the Company and other private persons in connection with the said case,” it had said adding Ranganathan has also been arrested in connection with the said case.

”Company is not aware of any information other than those published or reported in the media,” it had said. ”At this stage no estimated financial impact or estimated amount can be ascertained.” The CBI had last week stated that it had unearthed the alleged bribery scam involving Ranganathan, middlemen, and businessmen and arrested five individuals on Saturday.

The central agency had conducted searches at eight locations including the office and residence of Ranganathan, sources said.

”Cash of Rs 1.29 crore (approx), and gold jewellery and other valuables (having app value of Rs 1.25 crore) recovered during searches from the premises of said accused (Ranganathan),” CBI Spokesperson RC Joshi had said on Sunday.

It alleged that Ranganathan was collecting bribes from prospective beneficiaries of discounts to private companies buying petrochemical products marketed by the Maharatna PSU.

Ranganathan, it alleged, was ”indulging into corrupt and illegal activities in criminal conspiracy” with middlemen Pawan Gaur and Rajesh Kumar who is also director of Rishab Polychem Pvt. Ltd based at Bahadurgarh Road, Delhi.

Kumar and Gaur allegedly acted as Ranganathan’s middlemen by taking bribes from the private companies buying petrochemical products marketed by GAIL, the FIR alleged.

Based on information of one such bribery exchange, the CBI teams had conducted a trap operation in which two middlemen Gaur and Kumar were nabbed with the bribe amount of about 10 lakh which was collected on behalf of Ranganathan, the CBI had alleged. Later, Nair, Gupta and Bansal were also taken into CBI custody.

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