Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday termed the government’s decision to observe November 8 as anti-black money day a joke. “The Paradise Papers expose carried out by The Indian Express, in collaboration with a German newspaper and ICIJ, once again reveals the extent of black money menace and the lack of political will to take it on,” Yadav told mediapersons.
They released pages of a Sterling Group diary where alleged payments made to various people by the company were mentioned. The pages contained the mention of the name “Rakesh Asthana” or “Asthana Sir” against various payments made in mid-2011. Bhushan claimed this was none other than CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
The pages of the diary mention two identical payments of Rs 40,518 against the name Rakesh Asthana in two different months. There is one payment of Rs 13,360 against the name Rohit Asthana. However, in one month, there are five payments between Rs 37 lakh and Rs 1.7 crore, cumulatively adding to Rs 3.88 crore, mentioned below three mobile numbers attributed to “Asthana Sir”.
Notably, CBI director Alok Verma is reported to have given a dissent note to the committee that decided to promote Asthana as special director last month. Despite the note, the committee, comprising Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) chief, two CVC members, home secretary and secretary, DoPT, unanimously decided to promote Asthana.
The diary first hit headlines when CBI filed an FIR in August against three Income Tax officials for allegedly accepting bribes from Sterling Group. Names of the I-T officers had been mentioned in the diary against payments. The diary had been recovered by the I-T department during a raid on Sterling Group in 2011 but not brought on record then. Bhushan has now filed a plea against Asthana’s elevation in Supreme Court.
The CBI did not respond to queries by The Indian Express.
“The Sterling Group case is that of money laundering through over-invoicing and underinvoicing and export and import. CBI has registered a case in the matter. But similar cases against Adani and Ambani have been ignored,” Bhushan said.