AK Bassi, Who Probed Asthana, Says CBI Might Tamper With Evidence
CBI Deputy SP AK Bassi, the former probe officer of the bribery case against the Special Director CBI Rakesh Asthana, moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 30 October, with a petition. He claimed in the petition that the new team probing Asthana’s case might ‘tamper with or destroy the evidence’.
Bassi also said his transfer order is "malafide and derails a sensitive probe", adding that the allegations against Asthana are "grave".
He further sought an urgent hearing on his plea against the transfer on 2 November.
A copy of the petition, in possession of The Quint, reveals that Bassi has listed details of "incriminating evidence" against Asthana, which is already in CBI’s possession.
He also requested the top court for a special investigation team (SIT) to be set up to conduct a fair probe into the allegations against Asthana.
Amid the CBI infighting, Bassi was transferred to Andaman and Nicobar islands’ anti-corruption branch along with a number of officers who were transferred to different posts and locations, after CBI Director Alok Verma and Asthana were sent on leave by the government.
Bassi Lists Evidence Against Asthana
Bassi expressed his apprehension to the court and said “he will be made a scapegoat and victimised for discharging his duties in the FIR against Asthana”.
He also listed the details of the evidence that he gathered while investigating the bribery case against Asthana, CBI officer Devender Kumar and two private persons, Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad, who allegedly collected bribe money Asthana’s name.
Bassi informed court that when he seized middleman Manoj Prasad’s mobile phone after he was arrested, some incriminating WhatsApp messages were recovered from his phone:
On 6 December 2017, Somesh asked Manoj to take the ‘payment’ so that he can confirm that he has received it.
On 3 January 2018, Somesh texted Manoj on WhatspApp to pressurise Sathish Sana (the complainant and a CBI witness in Moin Qureshi case) to release more payment for Asthana. Somesh added that he can’t take “panga”with them (CBI officers) as they are “too powerful people”.
On 5 January 2018, Manoj received a message from an unidentified person, referring to someone as “boss”. The unidentified person informed Manoj that “boss” is unhappy with the “present situation”. Bassi doesn’t clarify in the petition as to who is the person referred to as “boss”.
Somesh texted Manoj on WhatspApp again on 24 January 2018, saying that two months have lapsed and he has not yet received the money from Sathish Sana.
Manoj and Somesh share the notice issued by the investigative officer under Section 160 CrPC summoning Sana for appearance before the CBI on 9 October 2018.
Somesh messaged a photo of “One Rupee Note” with a mobile number of the recipient of the bribe money written on it.
Bassi told the SC that all the above WhatsApp messages are available in Somesh’s mobile handsets and are in the possession of the agency.
Phone Call Evidence
While probing the bribery case against Asthana, the CBI had placed Somesh Prasad’s mobile phones under surveillance.
The call record details reveal that several calls were made between Somesh and Samant Goel, Special Director in Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), and Somesh and his father-in-law, Sunil Mittal, who allegedly collected the bribe money from the parking area of the Press Club in Delhi.
Samant Goel To Somesh On Phone
After Manoj was arrested by the CBI on 16 October, Samant Goel alerted Somesh -- who was in Dubai then -- later that night and told him to not come to India, as claimed by Bassi in the petition.
Between 11-12 pm on 16 October, two calls were exchanged between Samant and Somesh. The first call lasted for 454 seconds and the second call lasted for 206 seconds.
According to the CBI, Samant Goel introduced Somesh to Rakesh Asthana.
Somesh To Sunil Mittal On Phone
Bassi told the SC that Somesh, in a telephonic conversation with father-in-law Sunil Mittal, said four important things:
1. He said “Asthana to Apna Admi Hai” (Asthana is close to him).
2. His brother, Manoj, has met Asthana 3 to 4 times.
3. Samant had met Asthana after the registration case. Although, Bassi doesn’t clarify in the petition which case is he referring to.
4. Samant is very close to Asthana.
Calls Between Samant And Asthana
The bribery case against Asthana was registered by the CBI on 15 October 2018. During the investigation, Bassi found that four calls were exchanged between Samant and Asthana on 17 October between 6:30 am and 12:45 pm.
Bassi claimed in the petition that the transcript of the telephonic conversation evidence is available with the agency but the new CBI might not place it on-record.
After taking over in the wee hours of 23 October, Rao overhauled the team probing allegations of corruption against Asthana. There have been changes from the investigation officer to supervisory levels.
The CBI is imploding following a series of allegations of bribery against former Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
In a midnight move, the government on 23 October sent Verma and Asthana on temporary “leave”, in a move that has raised serious concerns of the Centre overstepping its jurisdiction and jeopardising the independence of the agency.
Life, Liberty and Dignity is Under Threat: Bassi
Bassi told the court that the new CBI team investigating the bribery case comprise CBI officers who are “close to Asthana”.
Hence, Bassi claimed in the petition that:
“...the present Investigating Officer has concentrated his efforts not on the allegations of the FIR, but has started roving and fishing enquiry in the investigation made by the Applicant, and that too against the Applicant.”
Bassi further requested the court to pass an order directing the CBI “to place all evidence collected” by him, including the transcripts of the technical surveillance, “to be placed before the SC in a sealed cover”.