Court Extends Custody Of ‘Middleman’ In CBI Bribery Case By Five Days

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Rakesh Asthana has been accused of demanding a Rs 5-crore bribe from an accused.

New Delhi:

The custody of an investment banker charged with helping Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Director Rakesh Asthana allegedly secure a multi-crore bribe has been extended by five days. The accused, known to be a flamboyant man, had walked into court wearing torn jeans and a blue denim shirt.

Special CBI Judge Santosh Snehi Mann said he was extending the custody of Manoj Prasad, an investment banker based in Dubai, because it was only fair that the new probe team formed by the investigation agency after the departure of Mr Asthana and his superior — Alok Verma — be given a chance to interrogate him.

The CBI had filed a bribery case against Mr Asthana while Mr Verma was still its Director. The Gujarat-cadre officer, in turn, accused his superior of several offences in a letter to the Union government.

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The FIR is based on the testimony of Satish Sana, a Hyderabad-based businessman being probed for his role in a money-laundering case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi. Mr Sana has alleged that he was asked to pay Mr Asthana a bribe of Rs 5 crore to be spared for his alleged involvement in the matter.

According to the CBI, Mr Sana told a magistrate that he had paid Rs 2 crore in instalments to the CBI Special Director over a 10-month period starting last December. The FIR also accuses Manoj Prasad and his brother, Somesh Prasad, of facilitating the transfer of the remaining Rs 3 crore. While Manoj Prasad was arrested by the CBI, Somesh Prasad is still at large.

The two — both investment bankers in Dubai — are sons of Deveshwar Prasad, a former director at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

In his arguments before the judge, the defence counsel argued that Manoj Prasad was the victim in a "fight between two elephants" and extending his CBI remand was unwarranted. The CBI, however, said Manoj Prasad's further custody was necessary to ensure a fair probe at a time when the investigation agency's credibility is at stake.

Manoj Prasad's Facebook profile buttresses his credentials as a well-connected man, having been photographed with high-profile individuals such as yoga teacher Ramdev and filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar — besides former diplomats and top government officials.

"We knew Manoj socially because he would be there at every party in Dubai," a businessman who was photographed with him told NDTV.

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