CBI Raids Its Own Headquarters: The Fight Within, Explained
As the CBI raids the CBI office, here is everything you need to know about the case
Before we get to the story behind the drama unfolding at the CBI headquarters, here is a list of the important characters of this power ‘play’.
Alok Verma: CBI Director
Rakesh Asthana: Special Director accused of taking a bribe.
Sathish Sana: Has accused Asthana of seeking bribe.
Moin Qureshi: Businessman close to UPA.
Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad: Middlemen
The fight between the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana, the first and second in command of the organisation, respectively, seems to have taken an ugly turn with the agency filing an FIR against the latter, naming him as an accused in a bribery case.
In its FIR, the CBI has alleged that Asthana took a bribe of Rs 3 crore to settle a case against a Hyderabad-based businessman, Sathish Sana, whose name had come up during an investigation in the Moin Qureshi case. Moin Qureshi, an Uttar Pradesh-based meat exporter allegedly close to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has been under the lens of various Indian agencies since 2014. He has been accused by the Enforcement Directorate of remitting funds through hawala channels to Dubai, London, and a few other destinations in Europe. Qureshi is believed to have had links with UPA-era CBI director A P Singh. Sana, reports say, is a key witness for the CBI and the ED in various cases against Qureshi.
The case against Asthana is based on a complaint filed by Sana. Other people named by Sana in the complaint include a deputy superintendent of police-rank CBI official, Devendra Kumar, middleman Manoj Prasad and his brother Somesh Prasad. Asthana was leading the investigation against Sana.
The CBI has claimed in its FIR that Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad had met Sana in Dubai and claimed that they would settle the case with him with the help of a CBI officer. After this, one of the two called an officer in the CBI, who claimed over the phone that he would settle the case for a bribe of Rs 5 crore and demanded Rs 3 crore from Sana in advance for the task. Sana was told by the duo that the officer he had spoken to was Asthana. To make him believe in the proposal, they showed him the WhatsApp display picture on the account belonging to the number they had called on.
Sana claims that he paid Rs 1 crore to Manoj Prasad at his office in Dubai and arrange payment of an amount of Rs 1.95 crore in Delhi in December 2017. Despite this, he says, he got a notice from the agency in the case in February. On raising the issue with the middlemen, he was asked to pay the remaining part of the bribe.
According to various reports, the investigating officer in the Qureshi money laundering case moved a proposal on 12 September for custodial interrogation of Sana. Asthana is said to have approved the proposal on 20 September.
“I told Manoj about this, to which he replied that this all is happening due to non-payment of balance of amount Rs 2 crore, to which I replied that the same will be made soon,” reads the statement given by Sathish Sana.
He claims that the remaining amount was paid to the middlemen in October.
In his defence, Asthana has accused CBI director Verma of instructing him not to examine Sana when he was summoned for questioning. In a letter to the cabinet secretariat, he as cited 10 instances of interference from Verma in the case.
However, according to the Economic Times, the Special Investigation Team under Asthana had managed to question Sana on 3 October. During the questioning, the daily says, Sana claims to have links with Verma through a senior Member of Parliament (MP) of Telugu Desam Party.
Manoj Prasad, one of the two middlemen, was arrested on 16 October. He has claimed that the bribes were being paid to Asthana on behalf of Qureshi. He has brought the number two of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), Samant Kumar Goel, into the scene, alleging that he met Qureshi often and helped him get in touch with Asthana. The R&AW officer, however, has not been named by the CBI in the FIR.
On 19 October, three days after the CBI filed an FIR against him for allegedly taking a bribe from Sana, the case was taken away from Asthana.
To sum up, the CBI under Verma has accused Asthana of taking a bribe from Sana. Asthana, in response, has charged Verma with trying to scuttle the probe.
In the latest round, the CBI has raided its own headquarters and is reported to have arrested special director Asthana in the case.
The tussle between Asthana and Verma is not news. The two have been at loggerheads for some time now. In July, Verma, who was in Uruguay to attend an Interpol meeting, had instructed a junior officer to inform the Chief Vigilance Commissioner that Asthana was not authorised to attend a CBI selection committee meeting, necessary to induct new officers into the CBI, in his absence. Verma had also objected to Asthana’s appointment as special director in the CBI.
The internal rivalry seems to be fuelled by conflicting views on the Sandesara Group case, which involves around Rs 5,000 crore bank fraud. Asthana has been accused of involvement in this case and is reportedly under investigation. The Hindustan Times reported in September this year that Asthana believes the CBI has evidence that could have cleared his name in the case, but chose not to present it at the behest of Verma.
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