Rakesh Asthana, the CBI’s number two officer who has been accused of accepting bribe by his boss Alok Verma, has pointed out that he was in London during the entire period when the alleged negotiation with a Hyderabad-based businessman and the exchange of money through middlemen took place.
Mr Asthana has also dismissed the claim that the middleman met him at his office Delhi around the same time.
The infighting between the top two of the country’s main investigating agency escalated when the CBI filed a First Information Report against Mr Asthana.
Mr Asthana then wrote to the Chief Vigilance Commission, the top anti-corruption watchdog, that it was in fact CBI chief Alok Verma who had taken bribe from the businessman being investigated by the agency.
Both were sent on compulsory leave by the centre last month and a probe into corruption allegations against the two was initiated by the Chief Vigilance Commission.
Sources close to the investigation have told that key witness Sana Sathish Babu, who both the top two officers alleged had bribed the other, has stuck to his statement against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana.
According to the First Information Report or FIR, Sana Sathish Babu had reportedly paid Rs. 3 crore, through two middlemen brothers Somesh and Manoj Prasad, as bribe to a CBI officer to get relief from questioning in a money laundering case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
Mr Asthana has informed Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary that between December 2 and December 13, 2017, when the bribe was allegedly paid according to Satish Sana’s statement, Rakesh Asthana was in London for hearings related to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya.
News reports confirm that Mr Asthana left Delhi on December 3 and stayed in London till at least December 15.
According to Sana Sathish Babu’s statement, he went to Dubai on December 2 last year and met brothers Somesh and Manoj Prasad.
They reportedly showed him a WhatsApp photograph of the officer and made him speak to him.
The person on the other side assured the businessman won’t be questioned in the Moin Qureshi case if he paid Rs. 5 crore. Later, when Mr Babu looked him up on the internet, he realised he spoke to Rakesh Asthana, his statement added.
Mr Babu alleged that a part of the bribe, 1 crore, was paid in Dubai and then Rs. 1.95 crore on December 13 at Delhi’s Press Club.
Mr Babu also claimed that on December 15 or 16 when Rakesh Asthana was recorded to be in London Somesh Prasad met the CBI officer at his office in Delhi and made him hear a confirmation from Mr Asthana about his case.
The alleged meeting has been presented by Alok Verma’s team as evidence against Rakesh Asthana.
The two-week period assigned by the Supreme Court to the Central Vigilance Commission to complete its inquiry ends on Sunday. The top court will hear the case on Monday.>