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Tracking Sinha’s guests: they visited just as their cases heated up

Logbooks at CBI chief’s home suggest pattern in visits by corporate representatives.

Written by Appu Esthose Suresh , Ritu Sarin | New Delhi |
Updated: September 6, 2014 8:37:07 am

A scrutiny of entry and exit logs at the New Delhi residence of CBI director Ranjit Sinha shows a pattern in the visits by a range of individuals: the frequency with which these individuals called on Sinha increased as CBI investigations against them or their close associates picked up pace.

The Indian Express in its editions of Thursday and Friday reported that Sinha’s visitors included corporate officials and politicians, as well as several lesser known individuals. Registers from May 2013 to August 2014, scrutinised by The Indian Express, appear to indicate that some individuals visited the house well over 100 times during this time.

Sinha has questioned the authenticity of the logs, and alleged “mischief from inside”. He has said that he would continue to keep his doors open to visitors, and would “see what the government can do”.

Some individuals whose visits to the CBI director’s residence raise questions of conflict of interest:

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Mahendra Nahata: 71 visits. His name figures on the first day for which the guest log is available — May 2, 2013. His last visit to Sinha’s residence, 2 Janpath, was on August 2, 2014, a few days before the logs end.

Nahata, the promoter of HFCL and co-promoter of Datacom, was questioned by the CBI in connection with the 2G spectrum scam in 2011, but no chargesheet was eventually filed against either the companies or their promoters. Nahata had floated Datacom in partnership with Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon. Datacom was originally at No. 6 in the list of applicants, but former telecom minister A Raja’s first come, first served policy allowed it to pay ahead of others and move up the queue. CBI had alleged it had used “insider information” to pay before others.

Deepak Talwar: 54 visits, whose frequency increased in 2013 when CBI was pursuing a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against him. The PE was ultimately closed.

Talwar is a well-known consultant in Delhi, whose name figured in the tapped conversations of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia. He was named in one of 16 matters which CBI told the Supreme Court needed to be probed further. CBI called Talwar a “middleman” active in the aviation sector. When contacted, Talwar declined to comment.

Vijay Dadra and his son Devendra Dadra: The logbooks suggest that Congress MP Vijay Dadra visited Sinha’s residence on one occasion; his son on six occasions.

Both men were named as accused in the chargesheet filed by the CBI in the coal block allocation case on March 27, 2014. The CBI alleged in its FIR that Nagpur-based AMR Iron and Steel — with which Devendra was involved — had in its application “fraudulently” concealed the fact that companies of their group had earlier got five coal blocks. In April, CBI is understood to have recommended closure of at least two coal cases involving the Dadras.

Subodh Kant Sahay: Visited the CBI director’s residence on February 13, 2014. Sahay had had to resign as tourism minister after allegations that the Ravanwara North coal block had been allocated to a company to which his brother Sudhir Kant Sahay was linked. However, neither the former minister nor his brother figured in the CBI’s FIR earlier this year. Subodh Kant Sahay told The Indian Express that he had indeed visited Sinha. “Find out what a close relationship I have with him. The agency never approached us for the case since there was no case at all,” he said.

Satish Chandra Misra: 6 visits, the first on Feburary 18, 2014, when CBI was to file its affidavit in the apex court in the disproportionate assets case against Mayawati, in which Misra was appearing. Last visit: July 15, 2014.

On January 17, the Supreme Court asked the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and CBI to explain, by February 18, why a fresh FIR not be registered against her. CBI was under pressure — the Central Vigilance Commission had earlier that month asked the agency what it intended to do in the case, and had asked it to explain why it had not filed a review petition against the SC’s order in 2012.

In its affidavit to the apex court on August 26, 2014, CBI said there was “no material available for filing a fresh Disproportionate Assets case”, even as the petitioner complained that the agency was letting Mayawati “go scot free”.

Misra denied having ever visited the CBI director’s residence.

Sunil Bajaj: 40 visits, coinciding with the period during which the special court in the 2G case was hearing the matter concerning Essar promoter Ravi Ruia.

Bajaj is a senior corporate affairs official of the Essar Group. Ruia was summoned by the special CBI court on April 16, 2013. He was not mentioned as an accused in the CBI’s FIR and chargesheet; he was, however, summoned by the court after CBI submitted that it had “found evidence against the CMD”. The court asked the agency why it had not named him as an accused.

Ruia has challenged the court’s order. Bajaj did not respond to telephone calls and text messages seeking a comment.

ADAG officials: 50 visits by Tony Jesudasan and A N Sethuraman have been logged. They used different vehicles, and visited both together and separately.

The visits are significant because the 2G trial is now in its third year and two ADAG companies, Reliance Telecom and Swan Telecom, are among the chargesheeted firms. In April this year, Ranjit Sinha faced allegations of trying to “tone down” the charges against the companies. This was the period when the two ADAG officials were paying frequent visits to his home.

In the 16 matters listed by CBI for further investigation in the Radia tapes case, four involved ADAG. Eventually, none of the PEs registered by the CBI resulted in a case.

Jesudasan and Sethuraman said in a joint statement, “The number of reported visits is grossly exaggerated. We have known Ranjit Sinha socially for many years and none of the visits have any bearing on our group and the CBI.”

U K Sinha: The SEBI chairman visited Sinha four times between March and June 2014. CBI was then investigating SEBI’s role in the NSEL scam, though the investigation was restricted to the time of U K Sinha’s predecessor.

On March 14, 2014, CBI registered a PE against former SEBI chairman C B Bhave and former member K M Abraham. Recently, CBI dropped the cases.

Anil Bhalla: The CEO and MD of Oswal Greentech Ltd, and a close associate of Abhey Oswal, promoter of Oswal Greentech, paid 40 visits to Sinha’s residence in 15 months.

Abhey Oswal’s son-in-law, Naveen Jindal, is under CBI investigation in the coal scam. Bhalla appears to have been visiting Sinha’s residence once in 10 days on average. Jindal and his company, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) are alleged to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the coal block allocations. An FIR against the company was filed in June 2013, and Jindal was questioned in September.

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