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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Central Bureau of Investigation director Alok Verma responds to CVC, rejects bribe claim

CBI director Alok Verma, in his response to the CVC, has dismissed the charge that he sought or accepted a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2018 12:31 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Central Bureau of Investigation director Alok Verma has responded to CVC and rejected bribe claim
Central Bureau of Investigation director Alok Verma has responded to CVC and rejected bribe claim(HT Photo)

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma, in his response to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), has dismissed the charge that he sought or accepted a bribe of Rs 2 crore from Hyderabad-based businessman Sana Satish Babu to shield him in the case against controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi, as alleged by CBI special director Rakesh Asthana.

Babu was a witness in the case, not an accused as claimed by Asthana, Verma told CVC, according to officials familiar with the development.

Babu is one of the main players in the fight between Verma and Asthana which split the agency down the middle, and, eventually, resulted in the government stepping in and divesting them both of their responsibilities.

Asthana’s bribery allegation was countered by a first information report (FIR) filed by CBI against him, citing a complaint by Babu about a Rs 5 crore deal with middlemen acting on behalf of Asthana.

In an August 24 representation to cabinet secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha, Asthana alleged that Babu was an accused in the case against Qureshi and in order to save himself from CBI action, had paid bribe of Rs 2 crore to the agency chief. The representation was forwarded to CVC for further verification by the cabinet secretary on August 30.

On the basis of the representation, the CVC issued three notices to CBI seeking clarifications on September 11; the central vigilance body claimed that director Verma didn’t cooperate with the inquiry, as it said in its order dated October 23 relieving him of his responsibilities. Asthana too was divested of his responsibilities as special director of the agency. The government on the same day nominated a joint director of the CBI, M Nageshwar Rao, as acting director of the agency. CBI filed its FIR against Asthana on October 15.

Verma challenged the CVC and government order in the Supreme Court and the top court on October 26 asked the vigilance body to complete the inquiry within two weeks under the supervision of former SC judge AK Patnaik.

“In the course of inquiry entrusted to the vigilance body by the Supreme Court, the CVC sent a detailed questionnaire to director Verma to which he replied on Tuesday,” said a government official who asked not to be identified.

Director Verma also told the CVC that following the registration of CBI’s FIR against the meat exporter, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) too initiated a money laundering probe against him and that even in that case, Babu was listed only as a witness.

On the allegations of deliberately keeping the FIR registered against Asthana under the wraps and not uploading it on the CBI website, Verma told the CVC that since search operations were being conducted on the basis of the FIR and the court was to be given a report of the searches carried out in the case, the agency took time to place the FIR on the website -- and that this has been done previously in other cases too. “But the agency complied with the mandatory provision of sending a copy of the FIR to the court concerned within 24 hours,” the government official added, citing Verma. Verma didn’t reply to a phone call and a message from HT. Central Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary too didn’t reply to a phone call and a message seeking comment. According to the official, Verma explained the reason why Babu, a bribe giver, wasn’t booked, by referring to the amended Prevention of Corruption Act that gives protection to someone forced to give a bribe, but reports the matter within sevendays. “Though Sana Satish Babu had started paying bribe in December last year as per his complaint but giving bribe became an offence only in July this year under the amended PC Act. And after the amendment, he paid another installment of bribe through Hawala but reported the matter within seven days. That’s why he was not treated as accused despite paying bribes since December last year,” the official explained.

According to the official, Verma also denied the charge that he tried to stop a raid against Bihar strongman Lalu Prasad in what is known as the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) case. The CBI alleged that two IRCTC hotels were leased out flouting norms when Prasad was the railways minister. The agency alleged that Prasad and his family members received bribes in the deal.

Asthana claimed that the CBI director tried to stall raids on the premises of Prasad in April this year and also that agency joint director Vineet Vinayak’s departure was delayed as Verma didn’t give him permission to travel to Patna.

“Verma told the CVC that Vineet Vinayak was a supervisory officer in the case and not part of the raiding team. He could have supervised the operation from anywhere. The director also pointed out that Lalu was finally charged with his approval only,” the official said.