CBI to question former top brass of HPCL in Rs 144 crore bamboo procurement scam

The CBI will soon call former top brass of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) for questioning in connection with a bamboo procurement scam of Rs 144 crore after a fresh FIR was registered against its ex-chairman and senior officers, officials said. In its third FIR, the agency has booked MV Narsimha Rao, the then chairman cum managing director of the public sector undertaking, company secretary LR Eknath and senior officers SN Bhattacharya, Amitabh Banerjee, Biplab Chowdhary, PK Bhuvan, HN Baruah and Mohan Jha.

The Hill Trade Agency and its owner RS Gandhi have also been named in the FIR, officials said. It is alleged that HPCL had an agreement with Dima Hasao Autonomous Council which used Gandhi as a subcontractor for procurement of bamboos to be used in making paper. The HPCL officers allegedly renewed contracts with the council even before existing contracts expired at a steep increase in the procurement prices over the years, they said. The agency has alleged that repeated increase in procurement prices caused a loss of Rs 46.47 crore to the PSU, they said.

They have been booked for allegedly causing the loss by purchasing bamboo and pulp at exorbitant prices when the same was locally available at much cheaper rates in the North East where its mills are located, they said. Earlier, Shillong unit of the agency had booked the then senior officers of the HPCL in two separate FIRs for causing Rs 64 crore and Rs 32 crore loss to the PSU.

The agency sources said the CBI will soon start issuing notices to the accused persons to appear for questioning, the officials said. Recently, the agency had pushed forward questioning because of lack of public transport and safety guidelines issued by the Union Home Ministry in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, they said.

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