Two more years to CBI to complete Asthana-Qureshi Bribery Probe

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CBI Asthana

Last year in October, the former special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation Rakesh Asthana, was booked in case alleging taking of bribes up to the amount of Rs 2.95 crores. The bribe alleged to have been received by Asthana was from Moin Qureshi, a business man for the purpose of illegally settle a case of money laundering against a suspect by the name Satish Sana Babu. Asthana was the lead investigator in the Moin Qureshi laundering case. The said transaction also included two middlemen by the name Manoj Prasad and Suresh Prasad.

It was also rumoured that the involvement of one another special director of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) by the name Samant Kumar Goel was being probed for probable involvement in the illegal dealing between Asthana and Quereshi. However, he has not been named in the FIR officially.

As evidence to point towards the involvement of Asthana’s culpability in the case, the CBI had presented telephone recordings, WhatsApp texts and statement trail of money transactions between Asthana and Qureshi.

What is the controversy all about?

Earlier in 2014, the Income Tax Department once raided the office of Qureshi, who is a meat exporter by profession. They confiscated his Black Berry phone, where the messages of BBM showed that he was in direct tough with the CBI director. As a consequence of the proven relationship, the then director A.P Singh had to resign from his post. Formally a case was registered against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation and transferred it to a Special Investigation Team (SIT) with Asthana heading it. In August, 2017 Qureshi was formally arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and booked under the various provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

Asthana was implicated in the case when another businessman Sana Satish deposed before a magistrate that the CBI special director heading the SIT was involved in suppression of the case against Moin in exchange of monetary benefits as bribe. In his statement, the Hyderabad-based businessman named one Manoj Prasand and one of his relatives by the name Somesh apart from Asthana himself. He disclosed details of transactions between the two amounting to over Rs. 3 crore ongoing for 10 months and alleged harassment by the CBI officers in demand for more.

Subsequently on October 16, Manoj Prasad was apprehended by the CBI when he had come to Delhi to collect a part of the bribe. Post-arrest, Prasad revealed that he was acting in concert with Qureshi in paying bribes to Asthana.

The implication of Asthana in the case began a series of blame-game within the CBI itself. Asthana, being the number two in the bureau, alleged the director Alok Verma to have interfered in an ongoing corruption case against Lalu Yadav, who is the chief of Rashtriya Janta Dal in Bihar.

The internal tussle between the two chief persons of the bureau escalated to an extent that the government passed a historic midnight order and removed both director Verma and special director Asthana from their respective positions.

‘CBI soon to be absolved of all charges’ : Reports.

Recently in early October this year, it came to news that there are chances of the CBI Special Director Asthana to be absolved of all charges in the ongoing probe. A statement submitted by the Supritendent of Police Satish Dagar has reportedly exonerated him of all charges. The report is awaiting vetting by the CBI after which it will be sent to the present CBI director Rishi Kumar Shukla, sucedded by preparation and submission of a closure report in the CBI court.

In a hearing of the case on October 02 before the Delhi High Court, the CBI asked for more time to complete with the investigation which had once earlier given the agency four months to finish the probe on May 30.   The agency also stated in an application that a “status report containing developments made in the investigation is being submitted in a sealed cover” for the court’s consideration. The agency claimed some issues relating to investigation abroad are pending,” as reported.  

The investigation against Asthana has been ongoing for almost a year now and there are chances for it to conclude in the favour of Asthana, absolving him of all charges whatsoever. Along with Asthana, the second accused Deputy Superintendent Devendra Kumar, who was one of the members of the SIT might as well be discharged of all allegations for the want of evidence. Though the Prasad brothers are still under the spectacle of CBI’s probe, sources have revealed that no money or financial trails have been established to link them with the allegation of bribery, also leading to the exoneration of Asthana.

One evidence which could implicate the brother-duo is the electronic evidence of being connected to another suspect in Qureshi case, Satish Sana Babu. It was the statement of Babu on the basis of which Asthana was being probed into for possible involvements. As per the statement of Babu, he had got in touch with the Prasad brothers as they had assured him that they know Asthana and he would help him get out of the ongoing CBI investigations for a payment of Rs. 5 crore

Initially, the CBI questioned Babu in connection with Rs 50 lakh he invested in Qureshi’s meat-export company. However, Qureshi came under the CBI scanner for his alleged involvement in influencing cases in the central agency. “During investigations into the Qureshi case, officers stumbled upon Blackberry Messenger communications where he was seen trying to allegedly influence transfers and postings of certain CBI officers,” the newspaper reported. Babu in his statements also claim to have sent Rs. 2.95 crores in different tranches but the claim couldn’t have been substantiated through any financial trails which could connect Asthana in the said transaction.

Statement of Satish Sana Babu:

Babu has previously been declared as an ‘unreliable witness’ by the CVC and thereafter he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for involvement in the Moin Qureshi money laundering case. As per the allegations set out by the ED, Babu had tried to bribe certain officers through Qureshi to settle down and escape accountability in the Vanpic Case which is linked to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagmohan Reddy.

The recent developments in the case suggests that CBI has been granted a further extension of two months to complete the probe into the former special director of CBI- Rakesh Asthana. The case was listed before Justice Vibhu Bakhru, who had unequivocally stated that no further time will be granted to the bureau for completing the investigation in the said case. The CBI was represented by Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee stated thatthat request has been sent to a foreign court seeking some financial assistance vide Letters Rogatory (LR).

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