High Court Notice to Central Bureau of Investigation on Plea Seeking Probe into Pension Scam

The Punjab & Haryana HC on Thursday issued a notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in an ongoing petition seeking investigation into alleged pension scam in which various social security pensions in Haryana were disbursed to the ghost & ineligible beneficiaries.

The matter is pending before the HC in the wake of a petition filed by Rakesh Bains. A resident of Kurukhetra, Bains has been seeking directions to register an First Information Report (FIR) in the alleged scam.

According to the petitioner, no First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against most found receiving bogus old-age-pensions in various districts of Haryana.

Haryana has registered First Information Report (FIR)s only in Shahabad Markanda & Kurukshetra, but no action was taken against those found receiving the pension fraudulently in other districts of the state.

The controversy raised in the petition is with regard to disbursement of old-age samman allowance/pension & other financial incentives to ineligible beneficiaries across Haryana with connivance of the officials concerned.

VVIP chopper case: Delhi court sends Christian Michel to judicial custody

A Delhi court Saturday sent alleged middleman Christian Michel, arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, to judicial custody.

Michel was produced before Special Judge Arvind Kumar and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sought his judicial custody in connection with its probe into a money-laundering case.

In the ED case, the court sent Michel to judicial custody till February 26 and in the CBI case, it sent him to judicial custody till February 27.

Michel, who was extradited from Dubai recently, was arrested by the ED on December 22 and sent to a seven-day custody of the agency by a court here.

He was earlier lodged in the Tihar Jail here in a related CBI case.

The ED, through special public prosecutors D P Singh and N K Matta, told the court that probe had been “fruitful” till now.

“We have investigated how cash was transferred through ‘hawala’ and multiple bank accounts. We have found information about other defence deals. We need to investigate the money flowing there as well. We have documents to show that they misled the Italian court,” it said.

The court had earlier imposed restrictions on Michel meeting his lawyers in ED custody after the agency said he was misusing legal access by passing chits to the advocates, asking them how to tackle questions on “Mrs Gandhi”.

In its application seeking extension of Michel’s remand, the agency also claimed that during questioning, he had spoken about the “son of an Italian lady” and how he was going to become the next prime minister of the country.

“We also need to decipher who the ‘big man’ referred to as ‘R’ is in the communication between Christian Michel and other people,” the agency told the court.

The ED sought that Michel be barred from meeting his lawyers in custody, alleging that he was being tutored from outside through his lawyers.

The agency told the court that Michel had made a reference to “Mrs Gandhi” during his interrogation on December 27.

During his medical examination, the accused had handed over a folded paper to his lawyer, Aljo K Joseph, and it was noticed by the ED officials.

After the perusal of the paper, it was revealed that it pertained to a set of follow-up questions on “Mrs Gandhi”, the ED said.

The agency told the court that it was clear that there was a conspiracy to shield or tamper with evidence that could be brought forth from the questioning of the accused.

It said it had discovered fresh evidence relating to new entities used for laundering the proceeds of crime and that Michel’s custodial interrogation was needed for confronting his Indian connections identified till date.

His custody was required for “unearthing the deep-rooted conspiracy and identification of all his accomplices, including the IAF officials, MoD (Ministry of Defence) officials, bureaucrats and politicians who gained undue advantage for getting the contract in favour of AgustaWestland,” the ED said in its application, adding that Michel remained evasive to certain questions during investigation.

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

The ED, in its remand application on Saturday, said the probe had revealed that Michel was the key middleman for AgustaWestland, pursuing the deal at different levels, and was instrumental in the circulation of sensitive information and eventual payment of kickbacks.

The key issues being investigated by the ED include the modus operandi adopted by the accused to eliminate TATA and HAL from competition in an Italian deal and the steps undertaken to mask the present deal as a British deal, instead of an Italian deal, to gain advantage in Light Observation Helicopters.

The agency is also probing the modus operandi adopted in influencing the German deal and how the accused misused information, leading to actions under the Official Secrets Act, and to determine if there were any more kickbacks, leading to the proceeds of crime linked with these activities.

The agency said it needed to determine the exact quantum of money laundered through the Media Exim Private Limited, the roles of the co-accused and unearth the proceeds of crime parked through this channel.

The ED, in its chargesheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he had received 30 million euros — about Rs 225 crore — from AgustaWestland.

The CBI, in its chargesheet, has alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.

CBI top 2 were fighting like cats we watched with amazement: Centre defends tells SC

NEW DELHI: The central government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the top two officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation Alok Verma and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana  were fighting like cats, and was becoming critical and matter of public debate asserting it was forced to strip CBI director Alok Verma on leave.

“Slamming both Verma and special CBI director Rakesh Asthana, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court government of India was watching with amazement as to what these two officers were doing, they were fighting like cats… Extraordinary situation made centre act and divest Alok Verma of his powers till the Chief Vigilance Commission takes a decision, reading from the late night government order sending the CBI chief on forced leave.

“Our objective was to ensure that public confidence in the institution is not eroded, so both officers were sent on leave,” he added. A bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has been hearing the petition filed by Verma for the last one month. Verma’s tenure as CBI director comes to an end in January.

Rakesh Asthana case: Court denies bail to alleged middleman

New Delhi: 
A Delhi court on Saturday dismissed the bail application of Manoj Prasad, an alleged middleman arrested in connection with bribery allegations involving the agency’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

Special CBI judge Santosh Snehi Mann denied bail to Prasad saying it was not a fit stage to grant him relief. 

The agency had opposed the application saying that the accused was an influential person and if released on bail, he may tamper with the ongoing probe and flee from justice.

In his bail application, Manoj Prasad had said he was not required for the custodial interrogation and no purpose will be served by keeping him in further custody.

Manoj Prasad, arrested on October 17, is currently in judicial custody.

Besides Rakesh Asthana, Manoj Prasad and Devender Kumar, another alleged middleman Somesh Prasad has also been named as an accused in the case 

The court had on October 31 granted bail to co-accused and CBI’s DSP Devender Kumar after the agency did not oppose his bail petition.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered an FIR against Rakesh Asthana and others on a written complaint of businessman Sathish Sana on October 15.

The FIR had alleged that Devender Kumar, being the Investigating Officer (IO) in the case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi, was repeatedly calling the complainant to the CBI office to harass him and compel him to pay a bribe of Rs five crore for getting a clean chit in the case. 

The complaint had also alleged that a part of the bribe was paid by Sathish Sana.

HC allows CBI to file closure report in missing JNU student’s case

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Monday allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file a closure report in the case of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, who went missing from the university nearly two years ago.

A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel “declined” the plea of the missing student’s mother, Fatima Nafees, to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and monitor the probe, thereby removing the CBI from the investigation.

The bench said Nafees, who had moved the high court in November 2016 seeking directions to the police to trace her son, “can raise all contentions available to her before the trial court” and disposed of the plea.

The court had reserved its verdict in the case on September 4.

The CBI, which had taken over the probe on May 16 last year, had after more than a year of investigation said it had looked into all the aspects of the case and was of the opinion that no offence was committed against the missing student.

Ahmed had gone missing from the Mahi-Mandvi hostel of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) here on October 15, 2016, following a scuffle with some students allegedly affiliated to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) the previous night.

The lawyer for Nafees had contended before the court that it was a “political case” and that the “CBI has succumbed to the pressure of its masters”.

Nafees had moved the high court on November 25, 2016, seeking directions to the police to trace her son.

However, as the Delhi Police remained clueless about Ahmed’s whereabouts even after seven months since he went missing, the probe was handed over to the CBI on May 16 last year.

The Delhi Police had not opposed the handing over of the investigation in the case, saying it had done its bit in the matter.

The counsel for Nafees had earlier said nine students were named in a complaint filed by 18 students, who were eyewitnesses to the alleged assault on Ahmed, yet they were not interrogated.

The nine students named in the complaint have denied all the allegations against them.

CBI to High Court: Maulana Azad-Najma Heptulla photo was morphed

The CBI has told the Delhi High Court that a controversial photograph of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Najma Heptulla, published in a book on the country’s first education minister, has been morphed, but the identity of the person responsible for it is yet to be ascertained.

The submission of the central probe agency is contrary to its earlier stand that there was not sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim that the photo was morphed.

However, it has recently told a bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher that its investigation has revealed that “the subject photograph has been morphed”.

“…but what has not come through clearly in the investigation is as to who is responsible for morphing the photograph,” the court noted and said that this aspect would be examined on the next date of hearing.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also told the court that on the next date of hearing, it would place before it the statement of the printer of the book, along with two case diaries.

In a status report filed in the court in December 2014, the CBI had said, “The allegation of photo-morphing was enquired into during the preliminary enquiry (PE)…During the course of the enquiry, witnesses were examined and documents were collected.

“However, after the enquiry, the CBI was of the view that the allegation of photo-morphing could not be substantiated as there was no sufficient incriminating admissible evidence for the prosecution.”

The court was hearing a plea filed by Azad’s grandnephew, Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who has alleged that the morphing was done at the instance of Heptulla, presently the Governor of Manipur, when she was heading the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

The controversial photograph, showing Azad sitting with Heptulla after the latter’s graduation, was published in an ICCR publication, titled “Journey of a Legend, on the life of India’s first Education Minister”.

The publication was later withdrawn by the ICCR.

Year after Najeeb went missing from JNU, CBI still clueless

Year after Najeeb went missing from JNU, CBI still clueless
Year after Najeeb went missing from JNU, CBI still clueless

Exactly a year after JNU student Najeeb Ahmed went missing from the campus following a scuffle with some other students, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had taken over the probe into the case from the city police, remains clueless.

The high court had first gone after the Delhi Police to solve the mysterious disappearance of Najeeb and since it was not satisfied with the progress made by the city police in the case, it transferred it to the central probe agency on May 16 this year.

Najeeb (27), a student of M.Sc Biotechnology, went missing from the Mahi-Mandvi hostel of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on October 15, 2016. His family members are still running from pillar to post to trace him.

Najeeb had an altercation with several students, allegedly affiliated to the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), according to his friends and family.

After over a month had passed since Najeeb went missing, his mother, Fatima Nafees, moved the Delhi High Court, seeking directions to the police to trace her son.

The high court had immediately directed the Delhi Police to “explore all angles” and “cut across political barriers” to trace the young man, saying no one could just vanish from the heart of the national capital.

However, as the police were clueless about Najeeb’s whereabouts even after two months since he went missing, it had to face the ire of the court, which asked it to scan the entire JNU campus, including hostels, classrooms and rooftops, with the help of sniffer dogs.

However, the police failed to sniff out any lead even after pressing 600 personnel and several sniffer dogs into service.

This prompted the high court to suggest other methods such as lie detector tests of the nine students suspected to be behind Najeeb’s disappearance as they had allegedly beaten him up before he went missing.

Though the police sent notices to the nine students, asking them to appear for a polygraph (lie detector) test, they ignored the same and subsequently, moved the trial court, challenging the step taken by the investigating agency.

Even as the nine students were opposing the lie detector test, Najeeb’s family alleged in the court that they were being harassed by the Delhi Police, which was conducting pre- dawn searches at their house in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh.

Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in the investigation, the family later demanded that the probe be handed over to some other agency.

In March this year, even the high court admitted that it was “foxed” by the lack of information on the missing student’s whereabouts and demanded an answer from the police “one way or the other” on Najeeb’s fate, saying that as far as the probe was concerned, the only thing happening was paperwork.

While the high court was monitoring the investigation, a magisterial court, on March 30, rejected the nine suspected students’ plea against the police notice asking them to appear for a polygraph test.

A few days later, the decision of the magisterial court was stayed by a sessions court, which subsequently quashed it.

Continuing with its probe, the police filed a chargesheet against a man, who was arrested for allegedly making a ransom call to Najeeb’s relatives, demanding Rs 20 lakh for his release.

However, his family kept urging the high court to transfer the probe to some other agency and finally on May 16, it was handed over to the CBI.

Two months later, on July 17, the probe agency sought more time from the court to investigate the case.

Nearly a month later, when the CBI failed to file a fresh progress report in the case, the high court rebuked it, saying the probe was not transferred to the agency “for fun”.

On September 6, the court again directed the CBI to take steps to trace Najeeb.

On the same day, the agency filed a status report on the investigation in a sealed envelope.

The CBI counsel informed the court that the agency had examined 26 people, including JNU officials, staff, Najeeb’s friends, colleagues and those who had issues with him, during its investigation.

The agency also told the court that the matter was widely publicised in 12 cities and that several mortuaries were also being monitored.

Apart from that, last one year’s railway records of passengers of the same name and age as that of the missing student had been called for, it told the high court, which is slated to hear the matter tomorrow (October 16).

( Source – PTI )

Expedite probe in coal allocation scam cases: SC

Expedite probe in coal allocation scam cases: SC
Expedite probe in coal allocation scam cases: SC

The Supreme Court today asked the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to expedite probe in the coal allocation scam cases, saying they should devise some method to deal with them.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur expressed displeasure over the delay by the agencies in not completing investigations in the coal block allocation scam cases in a time-bound manner.

“You need to expedite the investigation in these cases.

Some method has to be devised. You need to apply some out-of- the-box thinking. We understand that some delay is inevitable.

But the probe cannot go on for so many years,” the bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, said.

The apex court fixed the matter for further consideration in the first week of December.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, had earlier told the court that CBI has not expedited investigation in several coal cases despite direction from the apex court.

The apex court had on January 23 constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the allegations of “abuse of authority” prima facie committed by former CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to scuttle investigation and enquiries in coal block allocation cases.

It had observed that a prima facie case has “definitely” been made out for probe into the abuse of authority by Sinha.

It had later directed that no CBI officer, who is probing coal scam cases or officials from SIT probing allegations of “abuse of authority” against the former CBI director, would be transferred without its prior permission.

( Source – PTI )

Transfer racket: Middleman seeks bail

Transfer racket: Middleman seeks bail
Transfer racket: Middleman seeks bail

An alleged middleman, arrested along with two officers of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Delhi Police, today moved a special court seeking bail in a case of bribery for bagging choice postings.

Arun Tiwari moved the application before Special Judge Virender Kumar Goyal who sought a reply from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by September 19 on the plea.

The court also put up the bail application of Delhi Police officer Banay Singh Meena for arguments on September 19, the next date of hearing.

In their applications seeking relief, both have told the court that they were not required for investigation and no purpose will be served by keeping them in custody any further.

Tiwari and Meena are currently in judicial custody along with IB’s Assistant Director Kameshwar and another alleged middlemen Rajan Kumar.

The court had sent all the four accused to judicial custody on August 19 after the agency said their further custodial interrogation was not required.

The case was registered on August 9 against them for alleged criminal conspiracy, illegal gratification and commission of offence of abetment by public servant.

“During the course of investigation, the CBI had intercepted the accused persons and recovered the alleged gratification amount of Rs 10 lakh (approx) from the private persons,” the agency had claimed, saying it had carried out searches at several premises of the accused in Delhi.

“During the search at the premises of Kumar here, (total) cash amounting to Rs 1.6 crore (approx), certain rubber stamps of various ministries/departments of Government of India and forged letter-heads of various senior government officers and incriminating documents were recovered,” it had said.

( Source – PTI )

CBI files another status report on coal scam probe

aaThe Central Bureau of Investigation will on Monday file its fresh status report on coalgate before the Supreme Court.
Notably, the CBI has found no criminality in the allocation of about 60 coal blocks, which are likely to be taken out of the purview of its ongoing probe after taking the Supreme Court’s permission.

Although the agency has analysed the records in detail and concluded there was no criminality involved in the allocation of these coal blocks, a final decision whether to take them out of the ongoing probe would be taken after directives of the Supreme Court, sources said.

The sources said 195 coal blocks allocations are being probed out of which in 16 cases CBI has found prima facie material which indicates cheating, criminal misconduct and corruption based on which the agency has registered FIRs. However, during the analysis of nearly 60 allocations, records were found to be correct and no deviation from the laid down norms and procedures was detected.

During the inquiry, the agency analysed reports from the state governments, interested ministries, minutes of the screening committee and forms and documents submitted by the beneficiary companies, the sources said. Some of the executives of these companies were also called in by the agency and they were able to explain all the questions raised by the investigating team, the sources said.

The CBI has filed 16 FIRs against AMR Iron and Steel, JLD Yavatmal Energy, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog, JAS Infrastructure Capital Pvt Ltd, Vikash Metals, Grace Industries, Gagan Sponge, Jindal Steel and Power, Rathi Steel and Power Ltd, Jharkhand Ispat, Green Infrastructure, Kamal Sponge, Pushp Steel, Hindalco, BLA Industries, Castron Technologies and Castron Mining.

All these FIRs are rooted in three preliminary enquiries related to coal block allocation–between 2006 and 2009, 1993 and 2004, and projects given under the government dispensation scheme.

There are two other preliminary enquiries which are related to missing files. The agency is also likely to state before the apex court that almost all the relevant files related to coal block allocation scams have been received by it and the enquiries into the issue might be closed, the sources said.

They said so far no evidence has surfaced which shows criminality or intentional act on part of Coal Ministry officials to withhold files from the investigating agency.

The agency has concluded probe in nearly six FIRs and a final report could soon be filed before the competent court, they said, adding that any chargesheet or closure report would only be filed after the Supreme Court’s directives.

The slow CBI probe into the coal scam had come under sharp criticism of the court, which had said the agency was still in the “first gear” and needed to pick up speed.

“You (CBI) have to pick up some speed. The pace of inquiry is not good. You are still driving in the first gear. Yours is a huge task and all these need to reach a logical conclusion,” a bench headed by Justice RM Lodha had said.

(Source: IANS)