The CBI on Tuesday gave its former special director Rakesh Asthana a clean chit in a bribery case that had sparked off a major power struggle in the probe agency through 2018-19. The charge sheet filed before Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Agarwal instead named Dubai-based businessman Manoj Prasad while keeping the investigation against his brother, Someshwar Srivastava, and father-in-law, Sunil Mittal, open.
The CBI also absolved two others -- Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel and agency Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar -- in the case.
Amit Anand Tiwari, Rakesh Asthana's counsel, claimed that the CBI clean chit was proof of his innocence in the case. "Asthana's stand that he was falsely and deliberately implicated by then CBI director Alok Verma has been vindicated. The CBI should have filed the report long ago. The delayed filing has resulted in the persecution of my client for more than a year in a completely false case," he said.
The 332-page charge sheet cited 76 witnesses, 42 statements recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC and 11,370 calls made between Manoj Prasad, Someshwar Srivastava and Sunil Mittal. Three mobile phones seized from Manoj Prasad, one from Someshwar Srivastava and two from Satish Sana Baba were examined as part of the investigation, the CBI said, adding that neither Rakesh Asthana nor Samant Kumar Goel had communicated with any of them.
"The execution of letter rogatories sent to Dubai and the United States seeking details of financial transactions of Manoj Prasad and Someshwar Srivastava are still awaited, and a supplementary charge sheet may be filed on the basis of responses received," sources told NDTV.
The CBI - then headed by Alok Verma - had registered a case against Rakesh Asthana on October 15, 2018, on the basis of a case filed by Hyderabad businessman Satish Sana. The complainant, who was being probed in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, alleged that Rakesh Asthana took a bribe of Rs 2.95 crore to help him in the case.
Rakesh Asthana responded by filing a case against Alok Verma. As the infighting within the CBI came to a head, the centre shunted both out and appointed an interim director in their place.