CBI special director orders focus on Narada sting probe, asks for regular report
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Narada sting operation looks set for a push, officers indicated after a series of meetings with the agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana in Kolkata on Wednesday.
The Narada sting is a politically sensitive case in which a dozen prominent leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress -- ministers Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra, MPs Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Banerjee, Subhendu Adhikari, (late) Sultan Ahmed, Aparupa Poddar, Kolkata Corporation mayor Sovan Chatterjee, MLA Iqbal Ahmed and an IPS officer SMH Mirza -- were seen allegedly accepting cash from a man purportedly representing a company.
The sting was aired just a month before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal.
Asthana refused to speak to the media after coming out of the CBI office at Nizam Palace in south Kolkata around 4 pm after a series of meetings that lasted for close to four hours in two phases.
The CBI special director came to Kolkata on a two-day trip to take stock of the investigations into the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams and the Narada sting operation case.
Asthana not only perused the probe reports but also went through case diaries. Nearly 30 officers from different ranks of the CBI attended the meetings, said an official familiar with the development.
“On Wednesday, he held a separate meeting with the investigating officer of Narada case, Ranjit Kumar, where Asthana asked him for regular updates on this case to be sent to Delhi,” said the officer requesting anonymity.
“While in case of Saradha and Rose Valley, the special director insisted on regular status reports, in case of Narada he made it clear that every progress, major and minor, should be immediately reported to the agency in New Delhi,” the CBI official said.
Officials said Asthana asked the Kolkata officers to complete the Narada probe and submit the charge sheet as early as possible.
On Tuesday, Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee described the renewed activity of the CBI as an expected move in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election. Bengal’s ruling party leaders pointed out that despite the alleged scams, the number of seats they got in the assembly polls rose from 184 in 2011 to 211 in 2016 (in a house of 294 seats).
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said that since the CBI inquiry started following a Supreme Court order, such comments from Trinamool leaders constituted nothing but contempt of court.
The Sarada scam that sunk about Rs 2,500 crore of depositors’ money involved a some prominent TMC leaders such as Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh, Srinjoy Bose, Bengal transport minister Madan Mitra, party vice-president Rajat Majumdar. Mitra also served a jail sentence of more than two years.
The CBI is also conducting an investigation in the Rose Valley scam in which Rs 15,000 crore were raised from depositors. Trinamool MPs Sudip Bandopadhyay and Tapas Pal were arrested by the CBI in January 2017 in connection with the scam.
The CBI took over investigation of the Saradha scam in May 2014, Rose Valley in 2016 and the Narada scam in May 2017.