CBI goes after CBI: Rakesh Asthana team member arrested

Deputy SP probing Moin Qureshi case held for ‘falsification of records’.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary , Sushant Singh | New Delhi | Updated: October 25, 2018 11:22:59 am
CBI goes after CBI: Rakesh Asthana team member arrested Outside the CBI headquarters in New Delhi on Monday. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

The ongoing war between CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana has escalated with the agency searching its own premises in New Delhi and placing under arrest its Deputy Superintendent of Police, Devender Kumar, for “falsification of records” in connection with bribery allegations involving Asthana.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Verma Sunday evening to discuss the case. He also separately met R&AW chief Anil Dhasmana the same evening since Samant Kumar Goel, Special Secretary of R&AW, has been named in the FIR, although he is not an accused in the case.

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Devender Kumar, who was Investigating Officer in the Moin Qureshi case as part of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Asthana, was arrested around 2 pm Monday. The CBI had earlier searched Kumar’s office in the CBI building Friday. Kumar was the accused Number 2 in the FIR filed by CBI last Tuesday which named Asthana as accused Number 1.

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CBI sources said that Kumar was arrested on the allegation of “falsification of records in an ongoing investigation”, where he had allegedly fabricated the statement of Sana Sathish Babu “as an afterthought plan to corroborate the baseless allegations” made by Asthana against the CBI Director. As per the FIR, Sana, a witness in the Moin Qureshi case, is alleged to have paid bribes to Asthana for getting relief in investigation from the CBI SIT headed by him.
As per sources, the “fabricated” statement of Sana under Section 161 CrPC was allegedly created as showing it to be recorded on September 26 at Delhi. However, CBI’s investigation, sources said, found that Sana was not present in Delhi on that day and was in Hyderabad. He joined investigation at Delhi only on October 1, sources said.

Special Director Rakesh Asthana and Director Alok Verma.

In the statement that CBI called fabricated, Sana told the SIT under Asthana that the case against him had been settled through negotiations carried out by TDP MP C M Ramesh on his behalf with CBI Director Alok Verma.

In a statement, CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said: “The matter relates to creation of a statement U/s 161 of Shri Sathish Sana, a witness in the Moin Qureshi case, showing it to be recorded on 26.09.2018 at Delhi. During investigation, it has been found that Shri Sana was not present in Delhi on that day and was in Hyderabad. Shri Sana actually joined investigation at Delhi on 1.10.2018.”

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The “fabricated” statement, signed by Devender Kumar as IO, is in question-answer format. In response to a question why on being summoned by CBI for questioning he had insisted that the investigation against him had been concluded, Sana said, “During June 2018, I had discussed my case with one of my old friends Sh C M Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha member, who assured that he will talk to the concerned Director. Subsequently, when I met with Sh CM Ramesh, he told that he had personally met Director CBI regarding my case and examination by CBI. Sh Ramesh also informed that I will not be called again in this case. Since, from June onwards, I was not called by CBI, I was under the impression that the investigation against me is completed.”

Reached for comment Monday, Ramesh, who is from the TDP, told The Indian Express: “In my entire life, I have not even met a constable from the CBI. All of this is being fabricated to malign our image after we have exited the NDA. Now even CBI has found it to be fabricated.”

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In a letter written to the CVC on October 19, Asthana had alleged that Sana had approached Ramesh, who in turn personally met Verma. Later Ramesh, as per the letter, assured Sana that he would not be called again by CBI. Asking for transfer of eight cases under CBI investigation to another SIT, Asthana also alleged that “active efforts are underway to falsely implicate” him.

Asthana’s latest letter came after Manoj Prasad, Dubai-based businessman named in the FIR for allegedly collecting bribe for Asthana from Sana, was arrested from Delhi airport on Tuesday morning. Manoj is currently in police custody until October 25.

READ | FIR by CBI against Rakesh Asthana followed statement by Moin Qureshi case accused

Besides Asthana and Kumar, CBI’s FIR No 13A/2018 filed on Tuesday also lists Manoj Prasad and Someshwar Prasad as the accused. As per the FIR, the act of demand and acceptance of bribe allegedly happened in two distinct periods: December 2017 and October 2018.

As per Sana’s statement, the bribe has allegedly been paid through Prasad five times so far. While Rs 1 crore was allegedly paid in dirhams in Dubai on December 10, 2017, Rs 1.95 crore was paid in Delhi three days later. On October 10, Rs 25 lakh was paid in Delhi, and two tranches of 25,000 and 30,000 dirhams were allegedly paid in Dubai four days later.

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CBI’s investigation reportedly shows that the summons to Sana — four of them issued in October and November 2017 — stopped after Rs 2.95 crore out of the Rs 5 crore demanded of him were allegedly paid. But as per WhatsApp messages reportedly in CBI’s possession, the pressure to pay the remaining amount continued on Sana.

In February, after Sana flew down to Dubai to meet Prasad, the summons once again stopped even though a summon had been issued to him a day prior. A lookout circular against Sana was subsequently issued and he was stopped at the immigration on September 25.

READ | War between CBI No 1 and No 2 brings Moin Qureshi case back in spotlight

Thereafter, three summons were issued to him on October 1, 3 and 9. These summons allegedly led to fresh negotiations for relief for Sana, where he allegedly agreed to pay another Rs 2 crore. He allegedly requested for no summons till October 25 but there was immense pressure on him to pay the remaining amount. Prasad had reportedly come to India to collect that amount when he was arrested at Delhi airport.

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