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Rakesh Asthana Absolved of Corruption Charges by CBI

Rakesh Asthana Absolved of Corruption Charges by CBI

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NEW DELHI, Feb 9: The Central Bureau of Investigation has cleared the way for a possible return as its head of the Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana clearing him of the corruption charges in the Vadodara-based pharma company Sandesara brothers’ Sterling Biotech bribery case.

Asthana, currently the chief of the Border Security Force (BSF) was shunted out of the CBI from the post of the special director at the behest of the Vigilance Commission in 2018 after the then director Alok Verma opposed his appointment leveling several corruption charges including the case related to Sandesara brothers.

In a note submitted to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner in 2017, Verma had alleged that a handwritten dairy maintained by Sandesara brothers showed notings of 23 entries in the name of “RA” (suspected to stand for Rakesh Asthana) to the tune of ₹ 3,94,72,106 (around 4 crore).

The Sandesara brothers and other directors of the Sterling Biotech are absconding and are wanted by the Indian agencies in connection with a ₹5,383-crore bank loan fraud case.

In handwritten diaries, it was mentioned multiple times that money was paid to one “RA.” This was suspected to be Asthana since he earlier worked as Police Commissioner of Vadodara and reportedly had close family relations with Sandesara brothers.

The CBI after investigation, however, later claimed that “RA” stood for “Running Account.”

This is the investigating agency’s second clean chit to Asthana, who had a controversial stint in the CBI until he was removed. Earlier in Mach, last year, he was cleared by the CBI in another bribery case linked to meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

RK Shukla, who as the CBI director had “signed the file giving a clean chit to Rakesh Asthana and others” in the Sandesara brothers case retired from the post last week. A high-powered panel led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to meet soon to discuss names for Shukla’s successor and Asthana is considered to be among the top few officers billed for the post, particularly because he was a favourite of the prime minister as well as the union home minister Amit Shah.

“It was a unanimous opinion of the investigation team, supervisory officers and the competent authority to close the case for want of evidence,” the CBI sources said about the Sandesara brothers’ case.

The CBI had on August 30, 2017, filed a case against three officers, Sterling Biotech and unknown public servants for alleged corruption. The case was based on a diary seized from the premises of the promoters of Sterling Biotech, brothers Chetan and Nitin Sandesara, by the Income Tax department in 2011.

Relying on notings in the diary, then CBI director Alok Verma had accused Rakesh Asthana of receiving around ₹ 4 crore in bribe from the Sandesara brothers.

Sources said: “The 12-digit numbers written against Asthana on the diary was examined, there was no such bank account anywhere. Every aspect was looked into in detail in the three-year investigation, and for lack of evidence, the investigation team was of the opinion that the case should be closed,” the sources said.

There, however, was no official communication from the CBI.

(Manas Dasgupta)


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