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Complainant is being probed by an SIT led by Rakesh Asthana for a case linked to controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi

The feud between the top bosses of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana – seems to be getting uglier with every passing day.

In a rare, if not a first, incident the premier investigation agency has registered an FIR against its own special director, Rakesh Asthana – number 2 in the hierarchy of the CBI – on the complaint of Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Sana. The complainant has alleged that he paid about Rs 3 crore to the CBI special director over the past year to have his name cleared from a case linked to controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi – the case is being investigated by an SIT led by Asthana.

The CBI special director has dubbed the charges as a “conspiracy” and written to the central government stating that Sana’s complaint was the result of a conspiracy between the complainant and certain officers of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. It may be noted that Asthana is a Gujarat cadre officer, known for his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His elevation as the CBI special director last year had kicked off a continuing controversy around his credentials with some lawyers and Opposition leaders questioning the Centre’s decision to appoint him to the post.

Sana, who is being investigated by the CBI SIT led by Asthana for allegedly giving Rs 50 lakh to Moin Qureshi, has claimed that following his interrogation by CBI’s DSP Devender Kumar last year, Dubai-based investment banker Manoj Prasad told him about his “good connections” in the CBI and offered to help him have his name cleared from the case using these connections.

It may be recalled that Manoj Prasad had been arrested by the CBI on October 16, a day after the FIR was registered. In his complaint to the CBI, Sana has claimed that last year Prasad had demanded Rs 5 crore as payment to be made to Asthana and said that while Rs 3 crore was to be paid in advance, the remaining bribe money was to be paid at the time of filing of chargesheet in which he would be given a clean chit. The bribe money, Sana claims, was paid over the past 10 months, starting December 2017.

Sana’s statement was recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 CrPC and will be admissible in court. “Somesh (Manoj Prasad’s relative) told me that Rakesh Asthana would take care of my CBI case in lieu of payment of Rs 5 crore as agreed earlier. When I met Somesh in Dubai, during discussion he said Asthana will surely do the work as he (Somesh) managed his investments in Dubai and London for the past many years. He further informed that Asthana stayed at his home in London last year,” Sana said in his complaint, which is now part of the CBI’s FIR.

Sana alleged that he paid the first installment of Rs 1 crore to Manoj in Dubai in early December followed by a second cache of Rs 1.95 crore, paid to Manoj’s contact Sunil Mittal, the same month in the parking area of the Press Club of India’s located at the high-security Raisina Road in the national capital. Sana adds that despite paying the bribe money, Sana he was called in for interrogation again in September following which Manoj asked him to pay the remaining Rs 2 crore. Sana alleges further that on October 10, six days before Manoj’s arrested by the CBI, he again paid Rs 25 lakh to Manoj on October 10, 2018.

Asthana has been named as an accused along with Devender Kumar, Manoj Prasad, Somesh Prasad and unknown others in the CBI FIR.

In his rebuttal of the charges to the central government, Asthana has said that “a false FIR” has been lodged against him and alleged that CBI chief Alok Verma has stepped up efforts to falsely implicate him. Asthana had earlier alleged that the CBI chief had, in July last year, tried to scuttle the agency’s probe against RJD chief Lalu Prasad. The CBI has rejected the charges leveled by Asthana as “baseless and frivolous”.

— India Legal Bureau, with inputs from agencies

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