As the battle in the top ranks of the Central Bureau of Investigation becomes more vicious, with the lodging of an FIR against Special Director Rakesh Asthana last week, the officer, it appears, has listed more than a dozen charges against Director Alok Verma and other top agency officials, double the number of complaints against him.
Exactly a month ago, the CBI had issued a statement informing that its Special Director’s role was being investigated in “at least” half a dozen cases. Days prior to that, it transpires, Asthana had shot off a ‘top secret’ complaint to the Cabinet Secretary, listing more than a dozen charges against the Director, including relating to the investigation against meat exporter Moin Qureshi, and regarding two businessmen seeking St Kitts citizenship, and a land acquisition case in Haryana.
As the charges and counter-charges fly, hitherto unknown details of cases being investigated by the CBI as well as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are tumbling out. However, top government sources told The Indian Express, while the wars within the CBI had “gone too far”, the rumours of either Verma or Asthana being offered alternative assignments were wrong. They said it was up to the Central Vigilance Commission, which supervises the CBI’s functioning, to act on the spate of complaints from warring camps.
In his August 24 letter to Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha, Asthana said he was asked to reply to allegations made against him by the CBI, and that he had done so in a communication dated July 16. He went on to add that he had received sensitive information regarding activities of senior CBI officers from various sources and that since there was no mechanism to look into the information against the head of the organisation, he was sharing it.
Besides the already known case of searches allegedly being called off in a case involving RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, Asthana listed the following allegations against the CBI chief and other senior officials:
n An accused in the ongoing investigation against Moin Qureshi, Hyderabad-based businessman Sana Sathish Babu, had claimed that he paid a bribe of Rs 2 crore to CBI Director Verma to avoid action by the CBI, Asthana said. He added that he was instructed by Verma on February 20 on the telephone not to examine Sana and that the latter came for questioning only once and did not turn up thereafter.
Incidentally, this is the same case in which an FIR has been lodged against Asthana, naming him as the one who accepted a bribe. As reported by The Indian Express on Sunday, the FIR, registered on October 15, alleges that on October 4, Sana gave a statement on oath that Asthana, among others, shared bribes totallng Rs 3 crore to stave off the CBI.
* The Director, CBI, was informed by intelligence agencies that two businessmen facing CBI cases were trying to obtain the citizenship of St Kitts, but the agency took no action to either revoke their passports or arrange look out circulars in their names, Asthana wrote.
While one of the businessmen is named in a coal block allocation case, the other is being investigated for money laundering as part of the 2G spectrum allocation case.
* Following the registration of a preliminary enquiry in a Haryana land acquisition case, there were reports of the state’s Town & Country Planning officials as well as the real estate agents involved liaising wth CBI Joint Director Arun Kumar Sharma and Verma, Asthana said. His complaint stated there were allegations of Rs 36 crore being paid in an effort to close the enquiry. However, it didn’t clarify whether the enquiry was actually closed or not.
As per the case, only 85 acres of land were acquired in three villages adjoining Gurugram against a proposed acquisition of 1,417 acres, to give wrongful gain to private builders.
* Asthana listed several aberrations in a CBI case from last year where a trap had led to an assistant director of the ED being caught accepting Rs 5 lakh bribe to ensure there was no attachment of properties in money laundering cases. The letter said the head of the CBI’s Lucknow unit was severely reprimanded by the Director due to the case, and later relieved from the CBI before a decision on his extension could come in.
Apart from this, Asthana’s missive contains annexures with some CBI communications and listing of properties and companies to buttress allegations of mishandling of cases. He also mentioned instances of attempts to induct “tainted” officers in the agency, “assistance” being given in a January 2018 cattle-smuggling case, and mentioned the CBI’s “inaction” in a bribery case involving an ED official from Chandigarh.
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