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How ex-chiefs Singh and Sinha became the albatrosses around CBI's neck

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 6 March 2017, 20:48 IST

In the past few months, two former directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have come under the scanner of anti-corruption investigations, raising serious doubts on the credibility of the country's apex investigating agency.

In a fresh embarrassment to the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate says it may go ahead with attaching the assets of AP Singh after it had registered a case under the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act for his alleged dealings with Moin Qureshi, the controversial meat exporter who is also facing investigations.

Earlier, it was Ranjit Sinha who came under the arc of the probe, after he was accused of meeting those corporates and their agents who were under investigation for their role in various scams that were being investigated by the agency. It was alleged he may have tampered with evidence.

The investigations began after Supreme Court ruled that the CBI chief must be investigated for possible abuse of power.

No official should be above scrutiny,” a former top official of the CBI told Catch. “But this is the first time such a thing is happening – that two former directors are being investigated by the agency itself,” he said, explaining how this had severely dented the credibility of the investigating agency.

This officer, who served under both Singh and Sinha, claimed that both of them were not particularly known for their integrity even within the agency.

Singh, meanwhile, recently claimed that he was being targeted, although he did not spell out the reasons.

Moin Qureshi connection

It all began in February 2014, when the Income Tax department, in its raids, claimed to have discovered unaccounted money to the tune of Rs 20 crore after it raided many establishments linked to Qureshi.

The authorities had then said that the money could go up to several hundred crore. They also claimed to have found phone records and text messages that linked the controversial businessman, not just to politicians but also top officials of the CBI, including Singh.

The authorities also claimed to have found several BlackBerry Messenger exchanges between Singh and Qureshi, which pointed to a possible quid pro quo.

Qureshi had started his business working closely with Ponty Chadha, the liqour baron who was killed in a shootout at his farmhouse in Chhatarpur.

In his Lok Sabha poll campaign, Narendra Modi, at a rally in Akbarpur, had raised the matter, and hinted that the meat exporter's links went right up to 10 Janpath, the residence of the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Spooked by the way the IT authorities claimed to have evidence against the former head of the agency, Sinha, the then-Director of the CBI, had expressed anguish over how the matter was “being selectively leaked to the media”, and how a “witchhunt was afoot against the agency”.

Sinha had also written to the Central Board of Direct Taxes to provide the CBI with details of the investigations concerning the role of the CBI officials.

However, a couple of months later, an expose featuring the visitors' diary at 2 Janpath, then Sinha's residence, came out in the media, singeing the former CBI chief. The diary, which later became the basis of the SC's intervention to order an investigation, also had details of how Qureshi continued to visit Sinha, after Singh demitted office.

According to one report, Qureshi visited Sinha at least 90 times in 15 months. Moreover, there were instances when Qureshi and Singh met Sinha on the same day. However, the entries in the visitors' book also had other high profile names of those accused in the coal scam cases.

The SC-appointed inquiry commission headed by ML Sharma had indicted Sinha, and said that the meetings indicated that there was a prima facie attempt to influence the probe.

The directors' defence

Singh and Sinha, meanwhile, claimed innocence.

Singh said the messages the ED and the CBI were basing their investigations on had been in the public domain for over three years.

Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate have not added anything further. None of the purported messages sent through BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) pertain to the CBI investigations. They are mostly personal and innocuous in nature as between friends,” he reportedly said after CBI raids at his house. .

He also claimed he was being targeted, although he did not spell out the reasons.

Meanwhile, Sinha, too, in the SC, had argued that the SC was adopting double standards by throwing out the Sahara-Birla diaries while ordering an investigation against him based on a visitors' diary. He claimed the Sahara-Birla were far worse in terms of quality of evidence.

First published: 6 March 2017, 20:48 IST