CBI set to probe smuggling case from Alok Verma’s tenure as chief
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has launched a preliminary enquiry (PE) to investigate whether a gold smuggler, caught at Delhi airport with almost 4kg of gold by the Customs department, was escorted out safely by the city police, a CBI officer familiar with the matter said.
The move is significant because former CBI Director Alok Verma was the chief of Delhi police at that time.
This instance involving a smuggler was mentioned by Verma’s deputy at CBI, Rakesh Asthana, in his letter to the cabinet secretary last August. It is also an allegation that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) listed as “partially substantiated” in a report submitted to the Prime Minister led high-powered committee that selects the CBI director.
Interestingly, the PE has been registered against “unknown persons” and Verma hasn’t been named in it, the officer added.
However, Verma is “very much under the scanner” since the allegations were primarily levelled against him and an ACP — Raj Kumar — of Delhi police,” he said. Verma didn’t respond to repeated calls and text messages from HT.
Kumar, who is now retired, said, “I didn’t extend any favours to anyone. This is what I had said in my statement to the CVC as well.”
A PE is registered by the agency to ascertain whether there is merit in the case. If so, the PE becomes an FIR (or complaint).
The CBI’s move comes three months after Verma was removed as CBI Director by the selection panel in a 2-1 decision on January 10.
That came barely two days after he was reinstated in his post by the Supreme Court, which asked the selection committee to look into a report by the CVC on the charges against him and take a call.
His reinstatement itself came around two-and-half months after he was divested of his powers as CBI chief by the government on the intervening night of October 23 and 24.
That was largely driven by an internecine feud between Verma and Asthana that had curbed the agency’s effectiveness and was hurting its reputation.
Asthana too was divested of his powers and eventually removed from the agency. He is currently the head of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.
Verma was asked to take over as Director General, Fire Services, but refused to, saying he had already reached the age of retirement in the course of his term at CBI.
In its report, considered by the selection panel, CVC wrote, “the allegation is partially substantiated in as much as [Alok] Verma as CP (Commissioner of Police) Delhi did not take vigilance action against Assistant Commissioner of Police, Raj Kumar, in spite of noticing a grave misconduct”.
The CVC report recommended to the panel that CBI should investigate Verma in the matter.
The officer cited above said that CVC sent a reference to CBI last month following which a PE was filed.
A CBI spokesperson declined comment.
The CVC investigated Verma on 10 charges of misconduct, corruption and interference on the basis of Asthana’s letter.
The vigilance body recommended criminal investigations in a few other matters, including influencing the probe against controversial meat exporter, Moin Qureshi, dropping the name of a senior railway official in CBI’s IRCTC case, in which RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was named, and induction of tainted officers in CBI.
During the course of CVC enquiry, several other complaints were filed against Verma last year.
These include allegations of a cover-up in the leakage of CBI’s internal emails in the Nirav Modi case and the agency diluting a look out circular (LoC) against businessman, C Sivasankaran (former owner of Aircel), according to the CVC recommendation report to the high powered panel.
HT has reviewed a copy of CVC report.