New Delhi: Intervening in a massive fight within the country’s main investigating agency CBI, Prime Minister Narendra Modi summoned the agency’s top two officers, Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana. The CBI chief met him on Sunday. This is after the CBI or Central Bureau of Investigation filed a bribery case against Rakesh Asthana, who had written to the government listing several charges against his boss Alok Verma.
Rakesh Asthana, a Gujarat officer dubbed “the PM’s blue-eyed boy” in a tweet by Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday, was elevated as one of the country’s top investigators in controversial circumstances last year and given charge of major cases. Sources in the PM’s office say the CBI has not sought permission to act against Rakesh Asthana, as is required in such cases.
On Monday, the CBI arrested its officer Devender Kumar, who worked with Rakesh Asthana, and accused him of making false statements against its chief. In an unprecedented fallout of the fight, the CBI searched its own offices – specifically the rooms of senior officers who have worked with Rakesh Asthana.
The CBI’s First Information Report (FIR) against Rakesh Asthana is based on the claims of Sathish Sana, a Hyderabad-based businessman investigated in a money-laundering case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
Sathish Sana has alleged that he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs. 5 crore to Asthana to be spared. The CBI says Sathish Sana told a magistrate that he had paid Rs. 2 crore as bribe to Asthana over a 10 month period from December last year.
Manoj Prasad, a Dubai-based investment banker, was allegedly the middleman who organized the bribe. He was arrested on October 16 when he was allegedly about to collect an installment. The CBI claims nine phone calls made by Manoj Prasad’s brother Somesh immediately after the arrest included conversations with Mr Asthana.
The CBI infighting started last year when the director objected to the appointment of Asthana as his number 2, citing the Sterling Biotech case. Asthana, who had been acting chief, was elevated nevertheless, after another officer was reportedly transferred overnight to the home ministry to make way for him.
Rahul Gandhi tweeted this morning: “The PM’s blue-eyed boy, Gujarat cadre officer, of Godra SIT fame, infiltrated as No. 2 into the CBI, has now been caught taking bribes. Under this PM, the CBI is a weapon of political vendetta. An institution in terminal decline that’s at war with itself.”