New Delhi: The CBI has absolved its former Special Director Rakesh Asthana of allegations of taking bribes from fraud- accused pharma company Sterling Biotech, sources said, as reported by NDTV.
This is the invistigating agency’s second clean chit to Asthana, who had a controversial stint in the CBI untill he was removed in 2018.
Currently the chief of the Border Security Force (BSF), he was cleared by the CBI last March in another bribery case, linked to meat exporter Moin Quareshi. RK Shukla, who retired as CBI Director last week, ” signed the file giving a clean chit to Asthana and others in the mid of January”, sources said.
“It was a unamimous opinion of the investigation team, supervisory officers and the competent authority to close the case foe want of evidence, ” they told NDTV.
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.
Replying on notings in the diary, then CBI director Alok Verma had accused Rakesh Asthana of receiving around Rs 4 crore in bribe from the Sandeshara brothers.
Sources said, “The 12-digit numbers written against Asthana on the diary was exclaimed, 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”.
In 2017, Alok Verma had opposed the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as Special Director and, in a note submitted to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, alleged that the diary notings showed 23 entries in the name of the officer to the tune of Rs 3,94,72,106 (around 4 crores). Despite the objection, Mr Asthana was appointed.
The next year, however, the same case was refernced when the Chief Vigilance Commission ordered Mr Asthana’s removal from CBI.” … pending the process of inquiry into every issue arising in view of allegations directs that Rakesh Asthana, Special Director CBI be hereby divested of and shall not exercise any function, power, duty and supervisory role in respect of cases already registered and of required to be registered…” the top anti-corruption watchdog had said.
With the CBI now clearing him of the charge, there is speculation that Mr Asthana may return as its cheif. Shukla’s term has ended and a high-powered panel led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to meet soon to discuss for his successor.