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Saturday, February 04 2023

Top CBI official seeks court-monitored probe in Asthana bribery case

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New Delhi: A top CBI official, Manish Kumar Sinha, on Monday, November 19, moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the allegation of bribe against Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana in the meat exporter Moin Qureshi case.

The petition refers to charges of bribe being made to a Union minister and the other accused claiming connections with the “high and mighty” in the power corridors, including National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.

Sinha, a DIG-rank officer transferred to Nagpur on the dramatic night of October 23 when he was supervising the probe against Asthana, has said his transfer was “arbitrary, motivated and malafide”.

The application challenging his transfer to Nagpur, refers to November 8, 2018 purported message from Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer Rekha Rani to the office of Sana Sathish Babu claiming Union Law Secretary Suresh Chandra, who was in London, wanted to speak to Sathish Babu to convey a message of Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha offering “full protection” to Sathish Babu.

Sathish Babu is a witness in the Moin Qureshi case and the meeting between Asthana and Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) V.K. Chaudhary at latter’s residence where matter relating to some transactions between Gorantla Ramesh, Sathish Babu and Moin Qureshi was discussed.

Seeking the top court direction for summoning of the records pertaining to the case against Asthana to ensure their safe custody and guard against tampering, Sinha in his application for impleadment has cited several instances where people who were interrogated in the case flaunted their high connections and one Manoj Prasad “dropped” the name of NSA Ajit Doval in the course of interrogation.

The payment of alleged illegal gratification involved a case against meat supplier Moin Qureshi. The accused in the case are Asthana, Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, the investigating officer, two private persons Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad and unknown others.

The allegation of illegal gratification against Asthana, the application says, primarily pertained to December 2017 and October 2018. There are two instances of acceptance of bribe in December 2017 totalling to Rs 2.95 crore and three instances of acceptance of bribe in October 2018 totalling to around Rs 36 lakh.

This is a case in which Sathish Babu is a complainant who has recorded his complaint before a magistrate in Delhi.

Recalling the course of the events, Sinha in his application says that Manoj Prasad was intercepted at Delhi airport on his arrival from Dubai on the morning of October 16, 2018. He was brought to the CBI headquarters, wherein the first few hours of his arrival, Manoj was “garrulous and arrogant, both at the same time and in equal measure”.

“He tried his best to ward off the investigation by dropping names of ‘high and mighty’ and mentioning his ‘top contacts’ to create fear in our mind,” says the application.

Taking exception to CBI picking him from the airport, Manoj told the interrogators that his father Dineshwar Prasad “retired as Joint Secretary, RAW and has a close acquaintance with present NSA Shri Ajit K. Doval.”

Manoj Prasad also claimed that his brother Somesh Prasad was “very close to an officer at Dubai (name withheld) and to Samant Goel, presently Special Secretary, RAW and he can get us ‘finished off/kicked out’.”

The application says that no attempt was made to verify genuineness his claim about his closeness to NSA Doval.

In another revelation pointing to alleged close connections of the accused to the power corridors, the application says after the arrest of Manoj Prasad on the intervening night of October 16/17, in the morning of October 17 there was a call from Special Cell of Delhi Police to CBI Dy SP A.K. Bassi, investigating the case but he did not take the call. Later, another Inspector of Special Cell called up and sought to know if Manoj had been arrested.

Enquiries revealed that the query had originated from the Cabinet Secretariat, says the application.

The application says that immediately after it became public that the arrest of Manoj Prasad in the intervening night of October 16 ad 17, there were “4 calls between Somesh and Samant Goel and 4 calls between Samant Goel and Shri Rakesh Asthana by 17th afternoon”.

Manoj also claimed that he and his contact Samant Goel “helped NSA Shri Ajit Doval on an important personal matter”. He further claimed that India opted out of a contest for a post in the Interpol.

Sinha says that on verification it was found to be correct.

India was to contest for the post of delegate in Interpol and CBI Joint Director (Policy) A.K. Sharma was its nominee. There were four other contending countries. The elections were to be held sometime in the third week of November this year. Sometime in September, Sharma was to go abroad for a meeting but at the last minute, his trip was abruptly cancelled.

Meanwhile, CBI Director Alok Verma on Monday filed his reply to the adverse findings against him by the CVC after the anti-corruption watchdog inquired into the allegations of corruption levelled against him by his second in command Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

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