Making the first arrest in the Narada tapes scandal, the CBI Thursday took senior IPS officer S M H Mirza into custody. A special CBI court at Bankshall sent him to the agency’s custody for five days till Monday.
The CBI claims Mirza is trying to protect important people and needs to be questioned in custody. He was suspended by the West Bengal government in 2017 and later put on compulsory wait. Meanwhile, the CBI has summoned BJP leader Mukul Roy Friday. Among 14 booked by the CBI in the case, Roy was with the Trinamool Congress until 2017 when he quit and joined the BJP. Mirza was once considered close to Roy.
A CBI officer told The Indian Express: “He (Mirza) has been arrested in connection with the Narada sting operation.” At the agency’s Nizam Palace office, Mirza told reporters: “Case is under investigation and I will not say anything.”
The Narada tapes, a sting operation which surfaced before the state assembly elections in 2016, allegedly recorded several Trinamool Congress leaders and the IPS officer accepting money from a fictitious company in return for favours.
The CBI took up the case on the directions of the Calcutta High Court and later booked 14 people, including 12 Trinamool Congress leaders and Mirza.
On Thursday, Mirza was questioned for an hour before being arrested. Sources in CBI claimed his voice sample matched the voice recorded in the sting operation. He was taped accepting money from Narada news portal editor Mathew Samuel, the agency claimed.
Sources said Mirza, during questioning by the Enforcement Directorate which is looking into the money trail in the case, accepted the fact that he took cash but as “donation” for an orphanage.
Following Mirza’s arrest, Mathew Samuel said: “It is one of the happiest day of my life. When the video was released, political parties said it was a political conspiracy.”
Mirza was SP of Burdwan when Samuel met him at his residence and taped the conversation. His arrest comes days after CBI sought permission of the Lok Sabha Speaker to prosecute Trinamool Congress MPs Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Prasun Banerjee in the case.
On Mirza’s arrest, Mukul Roy said: “Whoever is called by CBI should cooperate. No one has ever seen me taking money, not even in the video. Mathew met me saying he wanted to start a business in Burdwan and I had given advice regarding that. I think the truth should come out.”
Welcoming the arrest, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said: “He should have been arrested earlier. This will win people’s confidence in our law and institutions like the CBI. People will now want to know who will be held next.”
CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said the arrest was delayed. “Everything was videographed. Yet it took them more than three years to arrest him. It is extremely unfortunate that IPS officers are being caught taking money on behalf of a political party.”
TMC general secretary Partha Chatterjee didn’t wish to speak on the arrest of Mirza: “Who has been arrested and from where, I don’t think I am the right person to comment on that. I am not into all these things.”
The development comes days after CBI sought the permission of the Lok Sabha Speaker to prosecute Trinamool Congress MPs Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Prasun Banerjee in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation.
In the videos, several individuals, including Mukul Roy and Sovon Chatterjee, who are now with the BJP, and Trinamool Congress’ Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Sougata Roy and others, were seen purportedly discussing receiving cash from a journalist who posed as a person with business interests in Bengal. The videos were shown on Narada TV.
The Narada tapes were released before the 2016 Assembly elections. The CBI initiated a probe into the case after being directed by the Calcutta High Court and later filed a case against 14 people, including SMH Mirza and 12 Trinamool Congress leaders.