Two Northern Virginia businessmen were charged yesterday with conspiring to bribe a U.S. Maritime Administration official to give them an inside price on a repossessed tanker.

Rashmi R. Kant, of Fairfax County, and Laxmi Chand, of Great Falls, allegedly offered $201,000 to the official if he agreed to keep the Stuyvesant, a 34,900-ton tanker, off the public auction block and sell it directly to them, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Alexandria.

Federal agents said they seized $3.2 million in cash and checks that Kant and Chand intended to use to pay the bribe and purchase the ship.

Law enforcement officials said Kant, 37, and Chand, 49, intended to sell the vessel for scrap, which at $250 per ton would bring more than $80 million.

O.M. Prakash Agarwal, 56, was also charged with conspiracy. Agarwal is the managing director of Hariyana Ship-Breakers, a Bombay company whose specialty is scrapping ships, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

U.S. Magistrate W. Harris Grimsley ordered Chand released on $100,000 bond. Grimsley ordered Kant held for 24 hours while prosecutors decide whether to appeal his ruling that Kant should be released on $75,000 bond.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. Hulkower argued there was reason to think both men would flee. Hulkower told the court that FBI agents had secretly taped Kant, saying "he has substantial funds in Swiss accounts, can teach others how to launder money and owns a house in India."

If convicted, Kant, vice president of Trident Trading Corp. in Arlington, and Chand, president of Worldwide Travel Inc. in the District, face prison terms of up to 40 years and fines of as much as $250,000.

Staff writer Jeffrey Rowland contributed to this report.