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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed an FIR against Nagaland’s Additional Secretary (Agriculture) Jitendra Gupta and two other officials working in the Fostering Climate-Resilient Upland Farming System (FOCUS) project. The accused are charged with receiving bribes exceeding Rs 2 crore, a PTI news report said.

The action stems from a complaint by the Income Tax Department’s Air Intelligence Unit, which intercepted Gupta and his colleagues – Deputy Conservator of Forests Rampaukai and Veterinary Assistant Surgeon Auto Vihoi – carrying suspicious amounts of cash on a flight from Dimapur to Delhi in December 2023. Over Rs 71 lakh was found in their luggage, sparking an investigation that has drawn concerning allegations.

It was reported that Vihoi claimed the seized cash belonged to Gupta and was collected as kickbacks from individuals involved in the FOCUS project. Rampaukai reportedly confessed the money originated from approving project bills for bribes paid to Gupta. The Income Tax Department alleged Rampaukai regularly collected bribes, handing over Rs 1.5 crore to Gupta in recent months.

Vihoi further accuses Rampaukai of collecting bribes from district project officers, including himself, with some reaching Gupta directly.

Gupta, a Bihar cadre officer, was sent to Nagaland on inter-cadre deputation in December 2020.

This is not Gupta’s first brush with controversy, as per the news report. In 2016, he faced similar bribery accusations related to overloaded trucks while serving in Bihar. He denied the charges, claiming they were fabricated due to his actions against the “transport mafia.” The Patna High Court ultimately quashed the FIR against him. In 2019, the Delhi High Court had directed the central government to initiate an inter-cadre transfer of Gupta forthwith and issue the order to shift him out of the Bihar cadre within four weeks.

While issuing the order, the high court had rebuked the Bihar government for “humiliating, harassing and victimising” an IAS officer who took a tough stand against the transport ‘mafia’ despite threats to his life.

Following the recent cash seizure and accusations, the CBI conducted searches at the FOCUS office in Kohima. The investigation remains ongoing, and questions linger about the alleged misuse of funds within the FOCUS project and the extent of the accused officials’ involvement.

MTNews Desk

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