War between No. 2 Special Director Rakesh Asthana and CBI Director Alok Verma

The CBI wars have resulted in fresh details emerging on the Moin Qureshi case, more than four years after the meat exporter was first raided by the Income Tax Department on February 15, 2014.
The I-T searches and the existence of incriminating BBM messages were first reported by The Indian Express and now, there are a plethora of details about BBM messages exchanged between Moin Qureshi and those he allegedly took money from to fix CBI cases, such as Pradeep Koneru, Hyderabad-based businessman.
There are also fresh insights from transcripts of telephone recordings of Satish Sana, another businessman from Hyderabad, who is now at the centre of the bribery scandal for which an FIR has been filed against CBI’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana last week.
Significantly, facts have emerged which show that Asthana and CBI Director Alok Verma, as recently as in October-November 2018, strongly disagreed on file on one aspect of the Moin Qureshi case: on whether the proposal of CBI officials to seek custodial interrogation of four of the accused should be sent to CBI’s Director of Prosecution (DoP) or not.

While the CBI Director was in favour of the DoP examining the arrest proposal, Asthana, as recently as November 3, 2018, had opined on file that there was no need for the same. The DoP is CBI’s seniormost law officer often called to opine on a case in case of a variance of views between officers.
Prior to that, almost the entire chain of CBI officials had stated that the custodial interrogation of the four accused was required to gather the threads of the investigation. The four proposed to be freshly arrested by the CBI are Moin Qureshi himself; Pradeep Koneru, whose father and brother were embroiled in a 2011 CBI case; Aditya Sharma, an employee of Moin Qureshi and Satish Sana, who also allegedly paid bribes to the meat exporter. Moin Qureshi had been arrested earlier; booked under the 2015 Black Money Act and finally granted bail in December 2017.
Four years after the I-T action, the CBI’s case had gathered steam and the agency felt there was sufficient digital evidence (via telephone interception and BBM messaging) that Moin Qureshi had received bribes totaling Rs 5.85 crore from Pradeep Koneru for settling the CBI case and of Rs 2 crore bribe from Satish Sana for another case. In all, nine telephone numbers of Moin Qureshi had been put under surveillance between 2013-2014 and cash and jewellery worth Rs 19.02 crore seized during searches.
The BBM exchanges between Moin Qureshi and his employee Aditya Sharma of 2012-2013 give a clear indication of the bribe giving by Pradeep Koneru. Sample these BBM messages from Aditya Sharma to Moin Qureshi: “Received 50 L from Pradip” or “Recd 10 L from Pradip.” And these from Pradeep Koneru to Moin Qureshi in 2013: “Sir, 25 diaries sent to Aditya” or “Sir, 250 metres done, it will take me another 45 days to complete.” There are dozens of other incriminating BBM messages.
As far as Satish Sana is concerned, telephone intercepts had revealed that that he had been negotiating the bail of businessman Sukesh Gupta, also from Hyderabad and booked in a 2013 CBI case with Moin Qureshi. He was also found to have invested Rs 50 lakh for shares of a company named Great Height Infratech, an entity owned by Moin Qureshi.
The CBI’s case has also been that the digital evidence with the agencies contain references to bribes in the form of expensive gifts being given by Moin Qureshi regularly to various government officials. Besides, BBM messages of Moin Qureshi revealed that hawala channels had been actively used to transfer some of the bribe money belonging to government officials to countries like the UK and France. These, and other aspects of the case, technically, are still “under investigation” by the CBI.
– Written by Ritu Sarin | New Delhi
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THE gathering war within the CBI, between Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, came to a head on Friday after the agency said that it was probing Asthana in as many as six cases of alleged corruption. And that Asthana was maligning the Director’s image and trying to “intimidate” officials by sending a “frivolous” complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission against Verma.
The six instances against Asthana were placed on record in June as part of the appraisal process and communicated to the Directorate of Personnel and Training (DoPT) which comes under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reacting to this, Asthana wrote to the government with a complaint against Verma, saying that the Director had sought to impede his functioning, interfere in investigations and malign his reputation.
As reported by The Indian Express on July 16, Verma had written to the CVC that Asthana is himself “under (the) scanner” in several cases and that to “maintain organizational integrity”, he “cannot be consulted for inducting officers into CBI” in the absence of the Director.
Among the six cases cited is the Rs 5,000-crore Sterling Biotech case involving the Sandesara brothers, where there are diaries with two entries of Asthana’s name. Based on similar entries in the diaries, chargesheets have been filed against Sterling Bioetch directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former Andhra Bank director Anup Garg and some other unidentified persons. The ED has filed chargesheet against Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s son-in-law based on the same diary entries.

There is also an allegation in the correspondence with DoPT that as Additional Director of CBI, Asthana tried to allegedly influence and deflect income tax proceedings against Sandesara. Another allegation relates to Asthana’s family members allegedly using private flights chartered by the Gujarati businessman chargesheeted by CBI in the Sterling Biotech case and paying flight tickets. among other pecuniary benefits. to his family members.
Another case involves Asthana’s alleged contacts with Undesirable Contact Men (UCM), a term used for questionable characters in agency parlance. The foremost among them being Upendra Rai, who is charged with money laundering and under the Official Secrets Act.
Sources close to Asthana, however, said there was no question of any inquiries against him in ongoing CBI cases. “If there was any inquiry, permission under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act needed to be taken and to date no summons or notice for any inquiry had been sent to him,” a source said. “The government has not been informed that there was any ongoing inquiry against him. The only matter which was sent to the CVC at the time of his promotion in the CBI was dismissed by the CVC and subsequently by the Supreme Court when a PIL was filed.”
Asthana’s complaint reportedly alleged that Verma had stopped searches in the IRCTC scam involving former Railway Minister Lalu Yadav.
“The allegation of preventing raids against the accused in the IRCTC case is absolutely false. The investigation of the case has resulted in filing a chargesheet before the designated court. This could not have been possible without the explicit approval of the director CBI,” the agency statement said.
The agency also told the CVC that two “frivolous and motivated” PILs were also moved in the Supreme Court this year carrying similar allegations which were dismissed, they said.
The CVC should opine on the maintainability of the complaint and consider it malicious and frivolous in order to protect the integrity of the organisation, the statement from the agency said.
The battle within the agency began with the Director not being allowed to appoint a few officers of his choice within the agency. Soon it spiraled into a full-blown controversy when in October 2017 the CBI Director opposed the promotion of then Additional Director Asthana to the post of Special Director.