Was In UK When Middleman Claims To Have Met Me: Rakesh Asthana’s Defence

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Rakesh Asthana was allegedly in London attending hearings related to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya

New Delhi:

The Central Vigilance Commission, probing corruption allegations against Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI Director Alok Verma by the agency's No. 2 officer Rakesh Asthana, may have stumbled upon a major piece of evidence.

Sources close to the investigation have told NDTV that key witness Satish Sana, who both the top two officers alleged bribed the other, has stuck to his testimony given in the First Information Report against special director Asthana. According to it, the Hyderabad-based businessman paid Rs 3 crore as bribe to a CBI officer who he believed to be Mr Asthana through two middlemen – brothers Somesh and Manoj Prasad. The bribe was paid to be spared any action in an investigation linked to meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

However, NDTV has learnt that Rakesh Asthana's defence was that the entire period when the negotiation and the money exchange took place, he was in London.

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The CVC was informed that on the day the FIR and Satish Sana's statement says the bribe was given to Mr Asthana or the day that the said conversation took place – between December 2 and the actual day of money exchange being December 13, 2017 – Rakesh Asthana was in London attending hearings related to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya. This is the defence Mr Asthana has put in front of Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary. News reports confirm that Mr Asthana left Delhi on December 3 and stayed in London till at least December 12 or possibly even later.

Satish Sana's statement said that he first contacted Rakesh Asthana sometime after December 3 last year through Somesh and Manoj Prasad in Dubai. Satish Sana said that Manoj Prasad spoke to the said officer over the phone and showed him his WhatsApp profile photo which he confirmed to be Rakesh Asthana in uniform. He paid Rs 1 crore upfront and then Rs 1.95 crore on December 13 in the Press Club in Delhi.

While Rakesh Asthana is recorded to be in London till at least December 15, what is uncertain is the establishment of the following assertions. Satish Sana claims that on December 15 or 16, Somesh Prasad met Rakesh Asthana at his CBI office in Delhi and made him hear a confirmation from Mr Asthana about his case. This has been presented by Alok Verma's team as evidence against Rakesh Asthana but he claims he wasn't even in the country.

The two feuding officers were sent on leave by the centre in a midnight 'coup' last month, a move that has been challenged by Alok Verma.

The two weeks time limit assigned by the Supreme Court to the Central Vigilance Commission to complete its inquiry ends on Sunday. The top court will hear the case on Monday.

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