The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has witnessed a roller-coaster few months after bribery allegations against Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana surfaced and they were sent on leave – investigations were conducted, an interim CBI Director was brought in, officers were transferred, Verma was reinstated by the Supreme Court and Asthana’s plea to quash the FIR against him, was dismissed.
Amid the latest developments in the case, with Verma resigning on Friday, 11 January, after refusing to accept his new post as DG, Fire Service, Civil Defence & Home Guard and the Delhi High Court directing the agency to wrap up investigations in the case within the next 10 days – the CBI has found itself in a very problematic spotlight.
However, this isn’t the first time that the CBI has had to handle a ‘sensitive’ case like this one.
A sensitive case which led to the Asthana-Verma row was the Moin Qureshi case. According to what Asthana told the CVC, a Hyderabad-based businessman named Satish Babu Sana, had allegedly paid Verma Rs 2 crore to save himself in the case where Qureshi, a meat-exporter, was being probed by the CBI on charges of tax evasion and money laundering. Asthana said he wanted to arrest Sana, but Verma intercepted and thwarted his attempts to do so. Interestingly, Sana later filed an FIR saying he had paid Asthana to shield him in the Qureshi case.
According to the dozen bribery allegations that Asthana levelled against Verma, was his involvement in the investigations into the IRCTC scam, where RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Yadav as well as others were charged with corruption in awarding contracts for maintenance of certain hotels during Lalu’s tenure as railway minister. Asthana alleged that Verma had asked him to call off the planned raids against Lalu in Patna at the eleventh hour in 2017, even after the teams conducting the raids were already in place.
Sterling Biotech Case
In the infamous Sterling Biotech scam, where two men named Chetan Sandesara and his brother Nitin, the directors of Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech had allegedly defrauded half a dozen banks of Rs. 5,700 crore, the CBI had found a few diaries which contained details of payments made by Sterling Biotech to people and firms in January and June 2011, one in which the initials RA were seen. This was assumed to be that of Asthana. However, Asthana maintained that the initials stood for ‘running account’, NDTV reported.
Vijay Mallya Case
One of the most controversial and sensitive cases that the CBI had to deal with, was the Vijay Mallya bank fraud case, where, interestingly, it was Asthana who headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT), after Mallya escaped from India in 2016 for the UK, after allegedly defrauding several banks of close to Rs 9,000 crore.
A highly sensitised case handled by the CBI is the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland Chopper scam, where allegations of bribes being paid to ‘middlemen’ and even politicians surfaced, after India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters built by the Italian defence manufacturing giant Finmeccanica. Asthana was in-charge of the team looking into the case.
DLF Land Grab Scam Against Vadra
One of the cases being investigated by the CBI is the Robert Vadra-DLF Land Grab scam, where Vadra’s company Sky Light Hospitality, which bought a 3.5-acre plot in Shikohpur village near Manesar reportedly sold it to DLF for Rs 58 crore. When the irregularities in this was later questioned, the Congress government gave a clean chit to Vadra, who is party supremo Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.
The CBI has been one of the central agencies investigating the infamous alleged Rs 13,578-crore Punjab National Bank scam, involving diamentere Nirav Modi and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, who have both been absconding since January 2017. After discovering Choksi’s whereabouts at Antigua, the CBI, after several Red Corner Notices being issued against the latter, is thinking of sending a team to Antigua and Barbuda.
In the notorious Vyapam scam of 2013, where 87 people were named in a CBI chargesheet for bribing imposters to write papers and, officials to forge answer sheets and manipulating seating arrangements in exam halls, the list included former Madhya Pradesh minister and BJP leader Laxmikant Sharma, and several other politicians and bureaucrats.
Saradha Chit Fund Scam
The Saradha Chit Fund scam, which came to light in 2013, was another case being looked into by the CBI, where an umbrella company comprising 200 private players –the Saradha group – was accused of cheating more than a million of its investors by running ponzi schemes. The CBI, in its chargesheet, had named former Finance Minister, P Chidambaram’s wife, Nalini, for her alleged role in assisting in the ponzi schemes.
AJL Land Scam Case
In 2016, the CBI filed an FIR against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who it accused of misusing his position as CM to cause “unlawful gains to the Associated Journals Limited (AJL)” and also a “corresponding loss to the government of Haryana”, BusinessLine reported. Hooda was accused of illegally allotting a government plot of land worth Rs 59 lakh to AJL. Hooda was later booked by the CBI for criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and several other charges.
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