The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been on the trail of the Nandas for a while now, but what really nailed them this time was their decision to travel under fictitious names to Mumbai in order to meet income tax deputy director Ashutosh Verma.
Verma, who was vacationing in Goa with his family, also travelled to Mumbai under a fictitious name.
The agency — that had been keeping an eye on the Nandas ever since their names came up in the defence deals — intercepted some telephonic conversations in which it was revealed that they were planning to travel to Mumbai.
“But the team found that the Nandas were planning to do so under fictitious names. This made the investigating officers suspicious,” said a CBI official.
Meanwhile, Bipin Shah, the Nandas' chartered accountant — who, according to the CBI, struck the deal between the arms dealers and Verma — booked a room in Mumbai's upscale J.W. Mariott Hotel for the income tax officer. Again, under a fictitious name.
“Verma had taken leave and ostensibly gone to Goa for a holiday. But he visited Mumbai for the scheduled meeting with the Nandas at the Mariott,” the CBI official said.
Verma's taxi was trailed by the CBI sleuths from the Chhatrapati Shivaji airport where he arrived on Saturday evening to the hotel. Later in the evening, the Nandas — Suresh and son, Sanjeev — accompanied by Shah arrived at the hotel reception and gave fake names to proceed to Verma's room. The raiding team then swooped down and arrested all four who had assembled there for “discussion and negotiation as part of the conspiracy,” the CBI said.
Verma, who was later presented in a Mumbai court by the CBI, reportedly claimed that he had prepared an investigation report, which was basically against the Nandas. He, however, could not explain what he was doing at a hotel room with an accused whose case he was investigating.
In the meanwhile, raids were carried out in Delhi, Mumbai, Ghaziabad and Goa. “Verma's Ghaziabad residence and the hotel room where his family was vacationing in Goa were raided, along with six premises in Delhi and four in Mumbai,” said the official.
The CBI confiscated Verma's laptop and other documents from the hotel room. “We have recovered Rs 32 lakh in cash, documents, three electronic chests, and nine computers and laptops during the raids,” said a CBI official. The computers and laptops recovered in the raid will now be scrutinised to establish any links with the defence deal cases.
The I-T department had conducted raids at premises owned by the Nandas in February 2007 in which some incriminating documents pertaining to defence deals that put the Nandas and their associates in a bad spot were allegedly recovered. Instead of handing over the documents to the investigating agency, Verma decided to use them to make a fortune of sorts for himself by striking a deal with the Nandas, the CBI said.
“Through our investigations we found that Verma had suppressed some documents related to defence deals that he found during the raids. He should have passed on those documents to the CBI which is investigating these deals, instead he struck a deal with Nanda's CA Bipin Shah,” said a CBI official.
Verma went to the extent of getting the draft investigation report approved by Shah and changed it according to the instructions of the Nandas, the CBI said.