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

The CBI’s case has also been that the digital evidence with the agencies contain references to bribes in the form of expensive gifts being given by Moin Qureshi regularly to various government officials.

Written by Ritu Sarin | New Delhi | Updated: October 25, 2018 11:25:21 am
CBI, moin qureshi probe, moin qureshi, ed probes moin qureshi, Moin qureshi corruption, rakesh asthana, CBI bribery scandal, Samant Kumar Goel, cbi infighting, india news, indian expres, indian express Meat exporter Moin Qureshi was first raided by the I-T in 2014. (Express File Photo: Amit Mehra/File)

The CBI wars have resulted in fresh details emerging on the Moin Qureshi case, more than four years after the meat exporter was first raided by the Income Tax Department (I-T Dept) on February 15, 2014.

The I-T searches and the existence of incriminating BBM messages were first reported by The Indian Express and now, there are a plethora of details about BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) messages exchanged between Moin Qureshi and those he allegedly took money from to fix CBI cases, such as Pradeep Koneru, Hyderabad-based businessman.

There are also fresh insights from transcripts of telephone recordings of Satish Sana, another businessman from Hyderabad, who is now at the centre of the bribery scandal for which an FIR has been filed against CBI’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana last week.

Significantly, facts have emerged which show that Asthana and CBI Director Alok Verma, as recently as in October-November 2018, strongly disagreed on file on one aspect of the Moin Qureshi case: on whether the proposal of CBI officials to seek custodial interrogation of four of the accused should be sent to CBI’s Director of Prosecution (DoP) or not.

READ | CBI names its No. 2 Asthana as accused No. 1 in bribery case; lens on RAW official

While the CBI Director was in favour of the DoP examining the arrest proposal, Asthana, as recently as November 3, 2018, had opined on file that there was no need for the same. The DoP is CBI’s seniormost law officer often called to opine on a case in case of a variance of views between officers.

Prior to that, almost the entire chain of CBI officials had stated that the custodial interrogation of the four accused was required to gather the threads of the investigation. The four proposed to be freshly arrested by the CBI are Moin Qureshi himself; Pradeep Koneru, whose father and brother were embroiled in a 2011 CBI case; Aditya Sharma, an employee of Moin Qureshi and Satish Sana, who also allegedly paid bribes to the meat exporter. Moin Qureshi had been arrested earlier; booked under the 2015 Black Money Act and finally granted bail in December 2017.

READ | Mud flies in war within CBI, Asthana sent list against Verma, with over a dozen complaints

Four years after the I-T action, the CBI’s case had gathered steam and the agency felt there was sufficient digital evidence (via telephone interception and BBM messaging) that Moin Qureshi had received bribes totaling Rs 5.85 crore from Pradeep Koneru for settling the CBI case and of Rs 2 crore bribe from Satish Sana for another case. In all, nine telephone numbers of Moin Qureshi had been put under surveillance between 2013-2014 and cash and jewellery worth Rs 19.02 crore seized during searches.

READ | In CBI probe against its Number 2, botched arrest bid, a businessman on the run

The BBM exchanges between Moin Qureshi and his employee Aditya Sharma of 2012-2013 give a clear indication of the bribe giving by Pradeep Koneru. Sample these BBM messages from Aditya Sharma to Moin Qureshi: “Received 50 L from Pradip” or “Recd 10 L from Pradip.” And these from Pradeep Koneru to Moin Qureshi in 2013: “Sir, 25 diaries sent to Aditya” or “Sir, 250 metres done, it will take me another 45 days to complete.” There are dozens of other incriminating BBM messages.

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As far as Satish Sana is concerned, telephone intercepts had revealed that that he had been negotiating the bail of businessman Sukesh Gupta, also from Hyderabad and booked in a 2013 CBI case with Moin Qureshi. He was also found to have invested Rs 50 lakh for shares of a company named Great Height Infratech, an entity owned by Moin Qureshi.

READ | Rakesh Asthana charges: CBI sent team to question Vadodara businessmen

The CBI’s case has also been that the digital evidence with the agencies contain references to bribes in the form of expensive gifts being given by Moin Qureshi regularly to various government officials. Besides, BBM messages of Moin Qureshi revealed that hawala channels had been actively used to transfer some of the bribe money belonging to government officials to countries like the UK and France. These, and other aspects of the case, technically, are still “under investigation” by the CBI.

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