The rift in the top in Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took a serious turn on Monday when a Deputy Superintendent of Police was arrested for alleged falsification of records in the bribery allegations against Special Director Rakesh Asthana as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped in amid the fracas between the top two officials.
The PMO summoned CBI Director Alok Verma and Asthana in an apparent bid to put a lid on the open war between the two officials, who had levelled bribery allegations against each other.
There was no official word on what the officials discussed with the higher-ups in the Prime Minister’s office, but it is understood that the two officials have been told to make amends as the image of the organisation has taken a beating in the public eye, a point opposition parties made in their criticism.
During the day, the agency arrested its Deputy Superintendent Devendra Kumar, who was earlier the investigation officer in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, on a charge of "falsification of records".
Kumar’s arrest comes a day after the agency registered an FIR against Asthana and several others for allegedly accepting bribes to settle a case of meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption. The CBI has alleged that bribes were given at least five times between December, 2017 and October this year.
"Kumar, who has been the investigation officer in the Qureshi case, has been arrested on the allegation of falsification of records," the agency said in a statement.
It said Kumar had fabricated the statement of Sathish Sana, a witness in the Quershi case, showing he recorded the statement on September 26, 2018 in Delhi.
"However, investigation revealed that Sana was was not in Delhi on September 26. He was in Hyderabad on that day and joined the investigation only on October 1, 2018," it added.
The CBI said "It was found that Kumar had fabricated the statement as an after-thought to corroborate the baseless allegations made by Asthana against CBI director to CVC."
An CBI official said that Sana’s statement was recorded on October 3.
He said the agency was also probing the role of other officers of the CBI Special Investigation team (SIT) then supervising the Qureshi case.
The official said the agency during the searches at Kumar`s residence and his office at the agency`s headquarters in south Delhi’s Lodhi road. The CBI seized eight mobile phones, one iPad and documents pertaining to Qureshi case.
The statement said the role of Kumar became suspect as the fabricated statement signed by Kumar on September 26 quoted Sana as saying that during June 2018, he had discussed his case with one of his old friends CM Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha member who assured him of that he would take to the concerned Director.
"Subsequently, when met with Ramesh, he told that he had met CBI Director personally regarding my case and examination by CBI. Ramesh also informed that I will not be called by again in this case. Since from June onwards, I was not called by CBI. I was under the impression that investigation against me is completed," the statement said.
The official further said that during investigation it was revealed that Sana was detained on September 25 at Hyderabad International Airport.
Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a businessman who was under probe in the Qureshi case in order to "wreck" the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team (SIT) headed by Asthana.
When asked about did the agency take permission from the government under section 17 (A) of Prevention of Corruption Act while filing a case against Asthana, the official replied that as the matter of bribery was not related to policy making, the agency can register a case.
Asked about the allegations pertaining to CBI Additional Director A.K. Sharma`s family having shell companies in partnership with undesirable contact men (UCM), the official said that he has no comments to offer as CVC was already looking into those charges.
Asthana had mentioned about it in his August complaint to CVC, the official said.
According to CBI sources, Manoj Prasad who was also arrested on October 16, had met Chetan Sandesara in London.
He said, however, the CBI has no information when and where this meeting took place in London.
Chetan along with his brother Nitin Sandesara are promoters of Sterling Biotech which had duped banks to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore. They are being investifgated by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.