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CBI questions MEA official

Rakesh Kumar said on Wednesday that he was willing to assist CBI in probe.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 22:45 IST

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday grilled Rakesh Kumar, the dismissed special secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, a day after he expressed willingness to help the agency in probing charges of human trafficking against him.

"We had served him a notice to appear before the agency soon after he returned to India but then he went to Rishikesh. We would have arrested him if he had not appeared for the questioning in the next few days," said a senior official.

Kumar had contacted the agency on Wednesday and said that he was willing to assist it in investigations, according to CBI officials.

The officer's questioning started around 10 am.

Kumar faces charges of abetting the flight of a troupe of 15 untrained ''bhangra'' artistes from Punjab for illegal immigration while he was director-general of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

The matter came to light when the troupe sent to Germany by the ICCR disappeared from their hotel in Berlin and did not return.

One Shiv Kumar Sharma, who allegedly acted as a middleman and was questioned by the agency earlier, had named Kumar.

"We had questioned Sharma and he had named Kumar to be one of the main conspirators in the case. Since Kumar's name is in the police complaint, he is also among the offenders for us," officials said.

"The case is very simple but the biggest challenge for us is to collect proper evidence and prove Kumar's involvement in human trafficking," the official said.

CBI had raided offices and residences of Kumar, Kehkeshan Tyagi, programme officer at ICCR, and two middlemen, Sharma and Har Gulab Singh. The raids were conducted on April 5 in Punjab and Delhi.

Senior officials said Kumar and his associates were charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, misappropriation, forgery for the purpose of cheating and use of forged documents.

Officials said that Kumar and Sharma had accepted sexual favours from two women who were also part of the troupe.

The members of the troupe had performed twice in India before being sent to Berlin where nine of them went missing.