CBI arrests Asthana's deputy in bribery case

CBI arrests Asthana's deputy in bribery case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested its officer Devender Kumar in connection with a bribery case registered last week against the agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana and others.

This is seen as a move to prepare the grounds for the removal of Asthana, the agency’s second-in-command.

Kumar, a deputy superintendent of police rank officer with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and part of a special investigation team (SIT) under Asthana, is one of the accused in the bribery case, registered against Asthana and others last week in an unprecedented move.

Asthana and CBI director Alok Verma have been engaged in a turf war since last year. The trouble between the two officials began after Verma objected to Asthana’s appointment as the CBI Special Director, citing certain allegations of corruption against him.

Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, heads an SIT which is investigating several crucial cases including the Agusta Westland chopper scam and loan fraud by business tycoon Vijay Mallya. The Asthana-led team is also investigating a case against controversial meat exporter Moin Akhtar Qureshi.

The CBI, on October 15, registered an FIR against Asthana for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 3 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman, Sathish Babu Sana, to help him get a clean chit in the case against Qureshi and others. The case was registered against Asthana on a written complaint by Sana.

Interestingly, Asthana had in August written to the Cabinet Secretary and the CVC, accusing the CBI director of taking a bribe of Rs 2 crore from Sana to help the latter get clean chit in Qureshi’s case.

“Devender Kumar has been arrested on charges of falsification of records in an ongoing investigation into the case against Qureshi,” a CBI official said.

Kumar created a fabricated document showing recording of the statement of Sana, who was “a witnesses” in Qureshi’s case, on September 26 even though Sana was not present in Delhi on the given date, the official said.

Sana, who was in Hyderabad on that day (September 26), “actually” joined the investigation at Delhi on October 10.

“It was found that Kumar had fabricated Sana’s statement as an afterthought to corroborate the baseless allegations made by the special director (Asthana) against the CBI director (Alok Verma ) to the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission),” the officer

In view of “the seriousness” of the case, the role of “other officers” of the SIT under Asthana is also being probed, he added.

As the issue kicked up a political row, Prime Minister Narendra Modi summoned both Asthana and Verma.

While Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked Modi on the issue, saying the CBI has become “a weapon of political vendetta” during his regime, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal questioned the silence of the prime minister, asking if people can have faith in the CBI when it does not have faith in its own special director.

“There are two reports, one is against the director and another against the special director. We would like people’s faith in the institution of the CBI to continue,” BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said.

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