CBI's special director Rakesh Asthana under agency's lens
Rakesh Asthana, the special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is under agency's scanner over allegations of leaking a highly secret document to a politician, either directly or using a human courier i.e. journalist Upendra Rai.
Sources from the Central Government told Indiatoday.in that on the direction of Prime Minister Office (PMO) and under the supervision of CBI's Director Alok Verma, a "discreet enquiry" (a close door enquiry) against Asthana is taking place, within the agency.
On January 13, 2018, in connection with Aircel-Maxis case against P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had found a confidential CBI report at the residence of former finance minister. The report was basically, a secret document on Aircel Maxis scam, which was earlier submitted by CBI to the Supreme Court (SC), in a sealed cover.
The ED and CBI were shocked to found those secret papers at Chidambaram's residence. "The documents were an unsigned copy, which means, a draft copy was leaked from CBI office, itself", the source said.
Both agencies reported the matter to the Finance Ministry and Prime Minister Office (PMO). After series of discussions within the Ministries, PMO decided to probe it further and gave the required clearances to CBI Director, Alok Verma. Subsequently, the CBI instituted an enquiry as to how the report had reached the residence of Chidambaram.
"After four months of internal enquiry, the CBI circled two persons i.e. Rakesh Asthana and Upendra Rai - against whom CBI has collected almost all the required evidences, such as: call data records, details of Whatsapp calls, chats, messages and few other things", the source told Indiatoday.in.
In the Delhi circle, it was quite known that Rai was close to Chidambaram, almost like a "trusted man", and therefore, it was not challenging for CBI team to connect all the dots between Chidamabaram, Asthana and Rai.
As per the sources, the investigators came to know that "the confidential report was leaked in the form of hard copies. It was two sets. One was found at Chidambaram's residence and another with Rai, at his premise."
To make the case stronger, early this week, the CBI visited Scindia House in Mumbai to "collect the related documents and much more", from the concerned Income Tax officials. "Rai was a regular visitor at Scindia House. He was meeting Director General of Income Tax (DGIT), DIT, ACITs, DCITs and others, to discuss and strategise the sensitive cases with them".
Besides Aircel-Maxis case, both Asthana and Rai were in "constant touch" during the investigation of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. It was in these conversations, CBI came to know about the nexus between senior income tax officials and journalist-turned-extortionist Rai, which is now being probed by the CBI.
When Indiatoday.in questioned Rakesh Asthana on these allegations, he replied back in a telephonic conversation, saying, "I don't know. You ask the director. I am wrong person to answer your query. If the allegation is against me and I am under the scanner, the right person for you is the director himself. I cannot tell you, I don't have any idea about it. If they have collected any evidences against me, then let them show."
Despite repeated phone calls and queries sent to Alok Verma, Director, CBI and a detailed questionnaire mailed to CBI's spokesperson, remains unanswered. However, the spokespersons indicated that "details of specific investigation could not be shared, at this point of time".
In October 2017, Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat-cadre IPS officer was appointed as the special director of the CBI. Earlier, he served as additional director in CBI.