PMO steps in as CBI director and his deputy trade bribery charges
23 October 2018
The PMO has reportedly summoned CBI director Alok Verma to quell a war within the country’s top investigative office where the special director and number 2 in the hierarchy Rakesh Asthana, who had earlier accused Verma of taking bribes, has now been charged with bribery by the CBI.
Although the CBI registered an FIR against Asthana and others a week ago for allegedly accepting bribes running into crores of rupees to settle a money laundering and corruption case involving businessman Moin Qureshi, the CBI has still not arrested the officer concerned.
While Asthana has not been arrested, the CBI on Monday arrested deputy superintendent Devender Kumar for “falsification of records.” It has so far been silent on the course of action it seeks to pursue against Asthana.
Reports say, this is because Asthana, a Gujarat cadre officer, is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to sources, CBI has put telephone intercepts, WhatsApp messages, money trail and a statement before the magistrate under Section 164. But, the investigating agency that arrests constables and government officials for taking small bribes, looked less serious in a case involving crores of rupees.
The FIR was filed on 15 October based on a case brought by Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, who was also a witness in the Qureshi case. Sana had alleged that Asthana and Devender Kumar, who was the investigation officer in the case, had received illegal gratification through private persons Manoj and Somesh Prasad for giving relief in the case.
Sana, who was called to the CBI for examination on multiple occasions in 2017, had stated that in order to get relief from frequent notices, he had approached Manoj Prasad in Dubai in December 2017. Thereafter, Rs 2.95 crore was paid to public servants through Manoj and Somesh Prasad, following which no notices were issued to him till mid-February 2018. But, since then, Sana said, notices were again issued to him, prompting him to contact the middlemen again. He got an extended relief on paying another Rs2 crore.
The CBI has charged in the FIR that Manoj Prasad was caught when he came to India to get the remaining Rs1.75 crore. Thereafter, on 20 October, Sana again recorded his statement, with a CBI court corroborating the assertions he had made in his complaint.
Following this, the CBI arrested deputy superintendent Kumar, who was earlier the investigation officer in the case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, on the charge of “falsification of records”.
“Kumar, who has been the investigation officer in the Qureshi case, has been arrested on the allegation of falsification of records.” The agency claimed that the officer had fabricated the statement of Sathish Sana by saying that it was recorded on September 26, 2018 in Delhi. “However, investigation revealed that Sana was not in Delhi on September 26. He was in Hyderabad on that day and joined the investigation only on October 1, 2018,” the agency said.
The CBI further stated that “it was found that Kumar had fabricated the statement as an after-thought to corroborate the baseless allegations made by Asthana against CBI director to CVC.” Sana’s statement, the agency said, was actually recorded on 3 October.
The CBI claimed that the fabricated statement signed by Kumar on September 26 had quoted Sana as saying:
“During June 2018, I had discussed my case with one of my old friends CM Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha member, who assured that he will talk to the concerned Director. Subsequently, when met with met with C.M. Ramesh, he told that he had personally met Director CBI regarding my case and examination by CBI. Ramesh also informed that I will not be called by again in this case. Since from June onwards I was not called by CBI, I was under the impression that investigation against me is completed.”
The agency claimed that it had “found that Devinder Kumar had fabricated the statement as an afterthought plan to corroborate” what it insisted were “baseless allegations” made by special director Rakesh Asthana against director Alok Kumar Verma to the Central Vigilance Commission.