ED arrests Satish Sana: Moin Qureshi's close aide may hold the key to unravelling the messy 'CBI vs CBI' row
Satish Babu Sana, who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), is not just a close aide of meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
In fact, Sana played a much bigger role by triggering mayhem at the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The CBI corridor was abuzz with whispers that Sana managed to influence the top boss to avoid any coercive action by the agency.
Sana's arrest by the ED, it appears, is the first step towards unraveling the conspiracy, which had shaken the foundation of the investigating agency.
New Delhi: Satish Babu Sana, who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), is not just a close aide of meat exporter Moin Qureshi. His late Friday night arrest by the ED is not just limited to probe in Hawala transactions, in which certain government officials are also allegedly involved.
In fact, Sana played a much bigger role by triggering mayhem at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and eventually brought down the top leadership at India’s premier investigation agency. Sana’s custodial interrogation by the ED would focus more on his alleged proximity to former CBI chief Alok Verma who was sacked by the government in a midnight coup. He may also spill the beans on the conspiracy that was hatched at the top level to frame former special director of the agency Rakesh Asthana in the alleged graft case.
Asthana, who is now heading Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), had told the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) that Sana was used by Verma to engineer a graft complaint against him. The top-level feud, infamously called 'CBI vs CBI' row, had started immediately after a CVC meeting in October 2017 to promote Rakesh Asthana as number 2 in the CBI. Then director Alok Verma opposed it but the government overruled his reservations. The CVC even found that documents were fabricated to frame Asthana in a bid to prevent his promotion. That did not work. And months later, Sana — an accused in the money laundering case — turned a complainant.
Verma used this complaint to lodge an FIR against his deputy for allegedly taking a bribe to scuttle the probe in the Moin Qureshi case and named an R&AW officer and two Dubai-based alleged middlemen, dragging the top institutions — starting from PMO to NSA — into the open battle involving ED, and R&AW, besides CBI and the CVC. Asthana has countered Verma’s allegation in a letter to Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, disclosing that Sana was called for examination on 20 February, 2018. However, even before Sana appeared at CBI headquarters, Verma called him on SIP phone and instructed that Sana shall not be examined.
Nevertheless, Sana was interrogated and during the course of examination claimed to have paid Rs 2 crore to manage CBI's senior officials. A day later, on 21 February, 2018, he was called for confrontation with Moin Qureshi and one Sukesh Gupta in the case. However, he did not turn up. Sana, a Hyderabad-based businessman, had transferred Rs 50 lakh to meat exporter Moin Qureshi in July, 2012 through his bank account. Subsequently, during November 2013, Qureshi gave a share certificate of M/s Great Height Infratech worth Rs 50 lakh to Sana. He also allegedly delivered Rs 1.5 crore to Qureshi during November 2012.
The CBI corridor was abuzz with whispers that he managed to influence the top boss to avoid any coercive action by the agency. Within months, Sana changed his tune. He filed a complaint against Asthana and other officials. Sana alleged that kickbacks were received by a middleman on behalf of Asthana to scuttle the probe in the Moin Qureshi case. The FIR filed on behest of Verma on 15 October, 2018 claimed the agency has got Sana's statement recorded under Section 164 of CrPC twice, in which he revealed that huge sums were paid to the investigating officer for giving him a clean chit.
However, the FIR since the beginning raised suspicions in the corridors of power. It did not mention that Asthana himself had proposed for Sana's custodial interrogation in September 2018 but it wasn’t approved by Verma. Moreover, the FIR was lodged at a time when Verma came under the scanner of the CVC following a complaint filed by Asthana. Amid raging controversy, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), under whose administrative jurisdiction CBI functions, had indicated that Verma misused his official position to target his deputy Asthana, and that was a serious violation of service rules.
The DoPT had taken cognizance of the fact that the day an FIR was filed against Asthana, he wrote to the CVC, saying that the CBI director was trying to implicate him in false cases. Although the case related to FIR and alleged graft to CBI officials had reached court, the government intervened to clean the house by removing Verma and transferring officers allegedly close to him.
Meanwhile, a CVC note in January 2019 observed that some of the allegations contained in the complaint filed by Asthana were prima facie established and they were of a very grave nature, impacting the integrity of Verma and the institution. The CVC had also observed that Verma’s conduct in the Moin Qureshi case was suspicious and required a thorough criminal investigation. Sana's arrest by the ED, it appears, is the first step towards unraveling the conspiracy, which had shaken the foundation of the investigating agency.