CBI Row: Is Key Complainant Against Rakesh Asthana Now Missing?
File photo of Rakesh Asthana and Alok Verma.
File photo of Rakesh Asthana and Alok Verma.(Photo Courtesy: Facebook)

CBI Row: Is Key Complainant Against Rakesh Asthana Now Missing?

On Friday, 26 October, the Supreme Court gave two weeks to the the Central Vigilance Committee (CVC) to complete its inquiry on the bribery allegations against CBI Director Alok Verma under the supervision of the former Supreme Court Judge AK Patnaik. Special Director Rakesh Asthana complained to the CVC saying that a businessman from Hyderabad, Sathish Babu Sana, who is also a witness in the meat exporter Moin Qureshi’s CBI case, allegedly paid bribe of Rs 2 crore to Verma.

But where is Sana? Is he untraceable?

At least that is what the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the court:

“Efforts were made to contact the complainant Sathish Babu Sana so as to confront him with the accused Manoj Prasad. However, his mobile phone number, provided by the earlier Investigative Officer, has been found to be switched off.”

Sana holds the answer to the key question, which is,

Whether he (Sana) paid bribe to CBI Director Alok Verma or to Special Director Rakesh Asthana?

On the complaint of Sana, the CBI had registered an FIR on 15 October against its number 2 Asthana, under the allegations of bribery and extortion.

Sana’s complaint was recorded before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in which he claimed that he allegedly paid a bribe of Rs 2.95 crore to Asthana’s middlemen Manoj and Somesh Prasad to get respite from the CBI in the Moin Qureshi case.

Verma claims that Sana paid a bribe to Asthana, while the special director says the bribe was paid to Verma. It is only Sana who can clarify to whom did he actually pay the money. Both the CBI and CVC are looking for him. But he is untraceable, claims the investigative agency. 

The CBI has informed the court that it is essential to confront Sana and Manoj to know what transpired between them. Without which it would be difficult for them to proceed with the investigation in the case.

Speaking to Sana is also essential for CVC’s investigation.

A new team was formed by the new CBI Director, Nageswar Rao, on 24 October to investigate Asthana’s case. The Quint has learnt from the current team that Manoj has already denied allegations against him in front of the CBI and said Sana did not approach him for getting any favour from CBI.

Manoj has admitted that he received 55,000 dirhams from Sana on 14 October 2018 in Dubai, but he denied that the said amount was taken to get Sana a favour from the CBI.

CBI Unable to Retrieve Data From Manoj’s Mobile Phone

In the FIR against Asthana, Sana has mentioned a WhatsApp conversation with Manoj and Somesh related to the bribe money which was meant for the special director.

The CBI told the court that it has checked the mobile phone of Manoj Prasad but is unable to retrieve deleted data. The agency also claimed that it is unable to retrieve data due to technical difficulties.

Manoj Prasad is currently in CBI custody till 30 October 2018.

Where is Somesh Prasad?

The FIR against Asthana claims that Somesh Prasad was in touch with him. The complainant, Sana, had told the CBI that it was Somesh who spoke to Asthana and showed his photo on WhatsApp to him.

But interestingly, one of Somesh’s close relatives, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Quint that Somesh has not been contacted by the CBI yet.

It raises the question of how efficiently is the newly-formed team conducting its investigation in a case which has such high stakes.

His relative claimed that Somesh is in Dubai with his family, adding that he was meant to travel to India this month but he changed his plans because of the case against him. 

In the CBI row, Sana is the main player whose testimony will decide the future of both Verma and Asthana.

But has he gone underground fearing the fight between the top officers of CBI?

How is it possible that the CBI is unable to contact the complainant in such a high-profile case?

(Participate in the second edition of The Quint's My Report Debate and win Rs 10,000. Write an essay on how to fix India and Pakistan's relationship. Submit now)

Follow our India section for more stories.

    Also Watch