CBI vs CBI: List of charges leveled by Asthana against Verma that Supreme Court wants CVC to probe
Joint Director Rakesh Asthana has alleged that the name of a senior railway official, who is the fulcrum of the conspiracy, was omitted with the approval of CBI Director Alok Verma in the Lalu Yadav-BNR Hotel FIR
New Delhi: Among the charges that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is set to probe against CBI Director Alok Verma in the next two weeks, are certain allegations levelled by second-in-command Rakesh Asthana, including that Verma ignored intelligence inputs regarding two industrialists' plan to move to St Kitts, a tax haven in the Caribbean island.
Asthana, in his letter to Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha in August had claimed that intelligence organisations had informed that two businessmen 'are obtaining citizenship of St Kitts surreptitiously'. One of the industrialists is under the CBI scanner after the agency registered a case against his company in July 2017 as part of investigation into the coal block allocation.
Instances of round tripping and laundering through a company owned by the other industrialist had also come under the scanner of the CBI in the 2G spectrum allocation case. A note was also sent to Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2017 against the company and businessman. Asthana has alleged that knowing fully well that both the industrialists are under the scanner, no action was initiated by Verma either for revocation of their passports under the provisions of the Passport Act or to open a look out circular.
“In fact, the intelligence inputs were neither shared with the investigating branch nor with supervisory officers," the letter running into more than 20 pages reviewed by Firstpost said. There are other allegations as well:
I. Moin Qureshi Case: 'Verma directed not to examine Sana'
Asthana has alleged that the CBI director was against interrogating Sathish Babu Sana in Moin Qureshi case when he was summoned by the CBI in February this year. Sana is now a complainant in the case and an FIR has been registered against Asthana and others for allegedly taking money to scuttle probe. Asthana, in his letter in August to the cabinet secretary said: "Sathish Sana was called for examination on 20.02.2018. On that day, even before Sathish Sana (could report) to the Investigation officer, Alok Verma called him on SIP phone and instructed that Sathish Sana shall not be examined. I immediately enquired with Sai Manohar, Joint Director, SIT, who was in my office at that time whether Sathish Sana has been called. After ascertaining from SP, SIT, he (Sai Manohar) confirmed that Sathish Sana was expected today. Despite instructions (illegal to my understanding) Sathish Sana was examined in the CBI head office by the Investigating Officer as the instructions of Alok Verma were not passed down the line."
Asthana alleged that Sana claimed to have paid Rs 2 crore to manage CBI's senior officials and after examination in February, he was not coming forth and was avoiding confrontation with the other accused in the case. Asthana said Sana was directed to meet CBI officer on 21 February, 2018, for confrontation with Moin Qureshi and Sukesh Gupta, however, he did not turn up.
“Apparently, as has been done in the past, the said accused (Sana) has managed to influence Alok Verma, Director CBI to avoid any coercive action by the CBI. The circumstances pertaining to the conduct of the accused as mentioned above indicate of wrongdoing,” Asthana has alleged.
II. Excluding suspects from FIR In Lalu Yadav case
Asthana has alleged that the name of a senior railway official, who is the fulcrum of the conspiracy, was omitted with the approval of Verma in the Lalu Yadav-BNR Hotel FIR. Asthana said the case was first stonewalled during the initial stage when CBI officers starting from investigating officer to the additional director sought for registration of a regular case against Lalu Yadav, railway officials and others. But, due to instructions from top only a preliminary enquiry (PE) was launched that too on the insistence of the branch officials. Later, during the deliberations on findings of the PE there was unanimous view of all the officers that an FIR should be registered against whom sufficient evidence had come on record.
“Again the file was marked to Director Prosecution (DoP) who once again went to the Director Verma seeking directions. The DoP after meeting with the Director conveyed the ALA about the outcome of discussion. He agreed with the unanimous view of all the officers but from the list of accused, name of one senior official was omitted, who was the fulcrum of the conspiracy. This was approved by the Director.This time the undersigned (Asthana) wrote a lengthy note that the DoP had omitted the name of one of the most crucial conspirator without assigning any reason on file. Additional Director conveyed that evidence against the above suspect had been collected and discussed on file. SP and DIG carried the file personally to the Director and it was submitted that without reason the main conspirator cannot be cleared from the list of accused persons. For their insistence, the branch officials were scolded and no change in recommendations was entertained. Needless to say that no searches were conducted against the accused Railway Official (sic),” reads the letter.
The CVC will also examine the allegation that the name of a contractor was also omitted from the draft FIR in the Lalu Yadav case. Asthana claims the contractor is a close friend of the CBI director and on his instance the paragraph related to the said contractor was removed from the draft FIR and only a passing reference was made.
III. Verma directed to call off searches at Lalu Yadav residence
Asthana has alleged that one day before the searches were to be carried out at the premises of Lalu Yadav and his family members, Verma had instructed him in the afternoon to call off the search at the premises of Lalu Yadav and concerned zonal director of the agency was also instructed accordingly. Asthana claims he took up the matter with Verma and insisted not to call of the searches as search warrants from the court had already been obtained and there was no justification to not comply with the court's order which would otherwise cause huge embarrassment to the agency and such conduct would be hard to defend.
“Finally, the director reluctantly agreed to carry out the searches and the concerned joint director had to rush to Patna by a private airline at the last moment," Asthana alleged.
He also alleged that in order to protect his favorite officers, Verma targeted others and in one such case, a PE in January this year was registered against an officer Sudhanshu Khare with the approval of the CBI director.
IV. Bribe paid to bury the Haryana land acquisition case
Asthana alleged that a PE was registered by CBI on the instructions of the Supreme Court to probe land acquisition in Nagli Umarpur, Tigra, (and) Ulhawas villages of Haryana. Against a proposed acquisition of 1,417 acres (as per notification u/s 4 of the Land Acquisition Act dated 2 June, 2009), a mere 85 acres were acquired to obtain wrongful gain to private builders.
“Information is received to the effect that a heavy amount of illegal gratification (to the tune of Rs 36 Crore) is changing hands to ensure that the PE is closed and no criminal investigation is launched," Asthana alleged, adding further that a senior government officer and the real estate company owner involved in the case are actively liaising with AK Sharma and Verma.
V. Smuggling of gold at Delhi airport
Asthana has alleged that a gold smuggling case was given a quiet burial while Verma was serving as the Commissioner of Police, Delhi. On 10 April 2016, Asthana alleged, an air passenger named Saurabh Sharma was expected to arrive at the IGI Airport, New Delhi, from Dubai.
“Raj Kumar ACP/IGI Airport had instructed Head Constable Pawan to receive and escort him. On arrival, when Saurabh Sharma was intercepted by Customs Department and SHO, Air Port, he was found in possession of 3990 grams of Gold. During the enquiry, Raj Kumar ACP/IGI Airport refused to divulge the name of person at whose instance he had directed Head Constable Pawan to escort the above smuggler. The enquiry was deliberately not allowed to reach its logical end (sic),” Asthana alleged.
The CVC may also look into Asthana’s allegations that Verma was trying to induct tainted officers into the CBI bypassing laid down norms. On 15 October, Asthana wrote to Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary that in the last week of September 2018, an officer of doubtful integrity Ajay Bassi was posted to AC-III branch knowing fully well that he figured in the watch list for the year 2018.
Bassi was transferred to Port Blair in the recent midnight mayhem. Asthana also alleged that Verma transferred an officer, Mahipal Singh, to Madurai immediately after he was seen delivering 'dak' (letter) on (his) behalf to the office of the CVC.
VI. Close confidant helping cattle smugglers
Asthana has alleged that AK Sharma, close confidant of Verma, was taking keen interest in de-freezing bank accounts of an accused in a large cattle smuggling network involving Border Security Force (BSF) officials. Sharma was recently transferred in the midnight coup from important policy division to almost defunct Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) unit of the agency.
The case is related to a cattle-smuggling network that was unearthed when CBI intercepted Jibu D Mathew, Commandant, BSF, posted in Murshidabad, West Bengal, at the Alappuzha railway station in Kerala. Unaccounted cash of Rs 45.65 lakh was seized from Mathew and it was further revealed that this was part of the money that he collected from smugglers operating from the International Border of India and Bangladesh.
Subsequently, the CBI had arrested Bishu Sheikh, a cattle smuggler who had floated several companies to channelise money. In one of his companies, a local BSF commandant's son was even made director. Sheikh's 26 bank accounts in Kolkata having deposits to the tune of Rs 46.07 crore were frozen, and later a court had ordered the release of three of these accounts, which CBI is challenging in the high court.
Asthana has alleged: "AK Sharma is taking active interest in getting these bank accounts of the cattle smuggler Bishu Sheikh and his companies released. He is even personally calling up officers for this purpose. The branch with the support of supervisory officers has so far resisted and not yielded to him. This case is under active investigation. It's part of a large scale organised nexus between the smugglers, anti-national elements and some of the BSF officers and personnel deployed on the India-Bangladesh border.”
The Supreme Court on Friday asked CVC to probe into corruption allegations against Verma under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik. The vigilance watchdog had earlier defended its decision to send him on leave saying that CBI Director was not cooperating in making available records and files sought by the commission relating to serious allegations.
The bench, however, said that it is leaving the question open on the validity of the changes made in the pattern of the examination.
The apex court said that grant of such a relief is in the nature of a review of the judgement of this court and in various decisions.
The top court was hearing a plea on Monday filed by a farmers’ body protesting against the three new farm laws and seeking directions to allow and stage ''satyagrah'' at Jantar Mantar