New Delhi: Hours after the Narendra Modi government’s dramatic midnight move to remove Central Bureau of Investigation director Alok Verma from his position, the agency has transferred the key members of the team investigating the corruption case against agency number 2 Rakesh Asthana off the case.
CBI deputy SP A.K. Bassi – who was the leading the investigation – has been posted to Port Blair. The CBI has said that this move is being taken “in public interest with immediate effect” and that Bassi is “directed to join his new place of posting in immediate effect in public interest”.
Through another order, key officers who were a part of Bassi’s team were also transferred from their posts and others were brought in in their place.
Verma and CBI’s second in-charge Rakesh Asthana – who has been accused by the CBI of bribery and extortion – were both asked to go on leave at around 2 am on Wednesday. A press release from the government noted that the appointments committee of cabinet has asked the agency’s joint director, M. Nageshwar Rao, to hold temporary charge of the CBI.
Last week, an FIR was registered against special director Asthana in a bribery case. Many reports have pointed out that Asthana has always landed plush positions because of his proximity with the top brass in the Narendra Modi government. Since official sanction from the government is needed to arrest any officer above the rank of joint secretary, Verma had placed a request but permission was not granted.
The FIR against Asthana was filed based on a complaint by Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana on October 15. Sana had alleged that Asthana and Devender Kumar had received illegal gratification through private persons Manoj and Somesh Prasad for giving relief in a money laundering case against exporter Moin Qureshi.
The Wire has also learned that Verma – who was selected by a high-powered collegium including the Chief of Justice of India for a protected tenure “not less than two years” that ends in January 2019 – was all set to initiate a preliminary enquiry (PE) in to the Modi government’s controversial decision to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft from Dassault Aviation, with a major part of the offset contracts going to an Anil Ambani-led company.