CBI Gives Former Special Director Rakesh Asthana Clean Chit in Bribery Case

A Delhi court has since expressed its displeasure with the inquiry conducted by the agency into allegations of bribery against its own officials.

New Delhi: After the Central Bureau of Investigation gave a clean chit to the agency’s former special director Rakesh Asthana in connection with bribery and extortion charges, a Delhi court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure with the inquiry conducted by the agency.

In the chargesheet filed before special CBI judge Sanjeev Aggarwal, the agency named Dubai-based businessman and alleged middleman Manoj Prasad as an accused but dropped bribery charges against Asthana and the deputy superintendent of police Devender Kumar, who was arrested in 2018 and later got bail.

The CBI also absolved RAW chief S.K. Goel, who was under the scanner in the case.

The Delhi court said that it would take up the chargesheet on February 19. “Why certain accused, who seem to have a bigger role in the case, were roaming free while the CBI arrested its own DSP?” asked Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal.

The CBI had registered the case against Asthana on the basis of a complaint from Hyderabad-based businessman Satish Sana, facing probe in the 2017 case allegedly involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi. Sana had alleged that the officer had helped him get a clean chit. The agency had arrested Prasad in the case when he returned from Dubai. It was alleged by Sana that Prasad and his brother Somesh had taken Rs 2 crore to arrange a clean chit to him.’

“Investigations have not revealed any role of public servants in the case,” a senior CBI officer told the Indian Express when asked about the clean chit to Asthana and Devender Kumar. “As far as some private persons are concerned, one has been charge-sheeted, while investigations against others is to continue. The agency is awaiting answers to letters rogatory sent to some foreign countries for evidence against them.”

The chargesheet also said that the probe against Sunil Mittal and alleged middleman Manoj Prasad’s brother, Somesh Prasad, was yet to be concluded.

After the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within the mandatory 60 day period, in December 2018, a Delhi court granted statutory bail to Manoj Prasad, who had been arrested on October 17, 2018.

According to the sources, the chargesheet further states that investigation in the matter is still underway and the agency may file a supplementary report.

Also read: How – and Why – the CBI’s Reputation Fell to Where It Is Now

Last year the Indian Express had reported that former CBI special director Rakesh Asthana was likely to be absolved of all charges soon.

In October 2018, the case surrounding the bribery charges against Asthana had blown into a full-fledged controversy. The agency, under director Alok Verma, had decided to file an FIR against Asthana, the second-ranking official in the CBI, for taking bribes through middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad. It was alleged that Asthana had taken a bribe to dilute charges against one suspect called Satish Sana Babu in the Moin Qureshi money-laundering scam, which Asthana was investigating.

These developments led to dramatic turns within the CBI, with the Modi government also getting involved. Asthana also levelled charges of misconduct, interference in investigation and corruption by Verma and CBI joint director A.K. Sharma following which the Centre asked the Central Vigilance Commission to probe the allegations against Verma.

In an unprecedented midnight order, the Centre removed both Verma and Asthana from their respective positions whilst appointing the agency’s joint director, M. Nageshwar Rao, to hold temporary charge of the CBI.

The Wire had extensively covered the CBI drama in October 2018, in the course of which Verma had questioned the CVC’s integrity as an independent investigator and hinted at the prime minister’s office’s interference in the case, to exonerate Asthana.

In an exclusive report, The Wire had also reported that the entire CBI team which was probing allegations against Asthana had been purged, and there are high chances that Asthana will be freed of all charges of corruption.

On January 8, 2019, based on the CVC report, the Supreme Court reinstated Verma – but restrained him from taking any major policy decisions – and directed a PM-led committee to decide whether Verma needed to be removed.

Two days after the Supreme Court held Verma’s ouster to be illegal and reinstated him, a high powered committee led by the prime minister sacked Verma. Verma resigned soon after he was posted as the director general of the fire services.

A polygraph test conducted on Satish Babu Sana in March 2019 concluded that his claim of paying a bribe through a businessman for protection appears truthful and support his claim that he paid a bribe through a businessman for protection in a 2016 case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

(With inputs from PTI)