Mallya’s Escape: Rahul Gandhi Blames CBI Officer, Agency Responds

The Quint reported on Jt Dir CBI AK Sharma who apparently helped Mallya escape by diluting the LOC against him.

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India
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Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya.
i

On 15 September, the ‘war’ on fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya took a turn when Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted the name of Joint Director AK Sharma, currently Additional Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), saying that he diluted the Look Out Circular (LOC), also known as Look Out Notice, issued against Mallya, which allowed him to escape.

The Congress President also said, “Mr Sharma, a Gujarat cadre officer, is the PM’s blue-eyed-boy in the CBI.’

On 18 March 2016, The Quint had reported on Sharma’s involvement in diluting Mallya’s LOC from “detention” to merely “informing” the agency.

Reacting to the Congress President’s tweet and media queries, the agency said, “some baseless allegations have been made by certain individuals against a senior officer of CBI”.

In a statement issued six hours after Gandhi’s tweet, the agency further clarified that,

The decision to change the LOC against Mallya was taken because at the time there was not sufficient grounds for CBI to detain and arrest him. The decision (to change LOC) was taken at the appropriate level as a part of process and not individually by the officer as alleged.

CBI also added that the “complaint against Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi from PNB was received almost a month after they had left the country. Therefore the question of any CBI officer having any hand in their fleeing the country does not arise. Prompt action was taken by CBI in the case immediately after the complaint was received from the bank”.

LOC Cannot Be Issued Without Joint Director’s Approval

The CBI crime manual, available on its official website, clearly states the protocol to be followed by the agency while issuing LOCs. Chapter 12.34 of the CBI crime manual reads:

In case it is suspected that the absconding accused may flee the country, Lookout Notices/Circulars may be issued through the Deputy Director (Coordination), CBI, New Delhi. Request for Lookout Notices should be sent only after obtaining approval of the Joint Director concerned. The necessity for continuing the Lookout Notice should be reviewed every six months.

But the question is – considering the fact that it is a high-profile case, is it possible that the then Joint Director AK Sharma didn’t consult the top boss of the CBI before issuing the LOC?

Who Is CBI Joint Director AK Sharma?

Congress President in the tweet has alleged that Sharma, a Gujarat Cadre officer, is a blue-eyed boy of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sharma is in the CBI on deputation since April 2015. He was the Joint Director of the Bank Security & Fraud division, when LOC against Mallya was issued. Currently, he has been promoted to Additional Director CBI.

Sharma is an IPS officer from the Gujrat Cadre 1987 Batch. He joined the CBI in April 2015. This is not for the first time that Sharma is at the centre of a controversy. Sharma’s name had cropped up during the investigation of the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. He, allegedly, in connivance with the other officers, tried to delay the investigation.

Sharma’s name also surfaced in the infamous snooping controversy on a young woman architect. She was reportedly kept under watch by a senior Gujarat police official on the alleged instruction of the then Minister of State for Home Amit Shah.

Is the CBI trying to protect its senior official, who is reportedly close to senior BJP leaders, by nailing down a junior CBI official in a major goof-up? Was there an undertable understanding between the CBI and Mallya in toning down the LOC? Or was it political pressure that forced the agency to revise Mallya’s LOC?

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