Sana Sathish Babu, the Hyderabad businessman at the centre of the battle between CBI’s special director Rakesh Asthana and the agency’s ousted chief Alok Verma, may soon face trouble from the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The ED, which had earlier made Sana a witness in the Moin Qureshi case, is now taking a re-look at his role in the case, and action may be initiated against him, sources said. “His role as a ‘bribe-giver’, as alleged by CBI, needs to be reassessed,” an official said.
The development is significant because until now the CBI and the ED had looked at Sana’s role differently in the Qureshi case. While ED made him a prosecution witness against Qureshi, a SIT of CBI, under Rakesh Asthana’s supervision, had considered him an accused and even proposed his arrest.
Sana is alleged to have bribed officials through Qureshi for assistance in the Vanpic case, which has YRS Congress chief and Andhra Pradesh’s Leader of Opposition Y S Jaganmohan Reddy in its crosshairs. While probing the Qureshi case, sleuths had also found Blackberry Messenger communications where Sana was ostensibly trying to influence transfers and postings of certain CBI officers.
Sana had come under the scanner for being among the alleged facilitators for payment of over Rs 5.75 crore to Qureshi to allegedly influence a case on behalf of Hyderabad businessman Pradeep Koneru, whose father had been summoned by agencies. In its chargesheet filed in October 2017 in the case, the ED had stated, “Moin Qureshi has extorted Rs 5.75 crore from a businessman under the promise of providing help in his family case with the CBI through the then director.” The ED made Sana a witness in the case.
The Asthana-led CBI SIT, however, believed Sana should have been treated as an accused. The matter even became a bone of contention between Asthana and Verma, when the latter was the CBI director. After Asthana sent a proposal for Sana’s arrest along with three others in the case, the matter was referred by Verma to Director of Prosecution, which, according to Asthana, was a ploy to delay things to shield Sana.
CBI records show Sana allegedly paid Rs 2 crore to meat exporter Qureshi in November 2012 and phone recordings obtained revealed that their conversation pertained to the bail of another CBI Hyderabad-based accused, businessman Sukesh Gupta.
A note from a CBI joint director on the subject of the proposed arrest of Sana (along with Qureshi, Koneru and Aditya Sharma, an employee of Qureshi) states that while ED treated Sana as a prosecution witness, in the CBI case he was being seen as a bribe-giver “actively seeking favours in CBI cases on behalf of the accused”.
In CBI records, officers have described Sana’s accounts to them as unreliable, as he changed his versions of how and why he paid the bribes between 2012 and 2013. While he first admitted in Hyderabad in October 2017 that he had been directly meeting Qureshi, he changed his account within weeks, claiming that Rs 85 lakh had been paid directly to Qureshi by Sukesh Gupta’s family, and that he had also paid Qureshi Rs 1.85 crore but never demanded it be returned.
CBI officers said the changing accounts of Sana “necessitated” his custodial examination.
In a matter of days of this disagreement between the two top officers of CBI, both cited Sana’s statement to claim that the other was corrupt. While Asthana in his communication to Cabinet Secretary alleged that Sana had told his team that Verma had taken Rs 2-crore to help him in the Qureshi case, Verma got an FIR registered against Asthana based on Sana’s statement that Asthana had taken a Rs 3-crore bribe to shield him in the Qureshi case.