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The RAW link in CBI tussle

By Jyoti Malhotra


New Delhi: remains untied in Verma’s FIR against Asthana is the passing reference to Samant Goel, additional secretary in India’s external intelligence agency, RAW.

According to highly placed sources in government, Goel’s mention in Verma’s FIR is more than a red herring.

Apart from the fact that Goel and Asthana are batchmates, the key reason for naming Goel is because he was seen to be “going after” Rajeshwar Singh, joint director in the Enforcement Directorate.

It is now being speculated in finance ministry circles that the noose could tighten around Singh, allegedly because of his proximity to Verma and because a RAW report against him alleges that he was in touch with an ISI agent in Dubai.

As an ED officer, Singh has handled several high-profile cases, including the 2G spectrum allocation case and the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case in which former finance minister P. Chidambaram and his son Karti are allegedly involved.

He has also handled the Commonwealth Games scam and several other money-laundering scams involving politicians such as Om Prakash Chautala, Jaganmohan Reddy and former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda.

BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy, who has taken a close interest in the case against P. Chidambaram, tweeted Wednesday:

The players in the CBI massacre are about to suspend ED’s Rajeshwar so that he cannot file the chargesheet against PC. If so I will have no reason to fight the corrupt since my govt is hell bent on protecting them. I shall then withdraw from all the corruption cases I have filed.

From his own tweet, Swamy indicates his approval of Singh, who had in June written a letter to finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia asking why he had become hostile towards him and was “siding with scamsters and their affiliates”.

Adhia, a Gujarat cadre officer, is said to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The plot became more complicated when in July, Singh moved the Supreme Court, seeking protection against allegations of disproportionate income levelled against him. Instead, additional solicitor-general Vikramjit Banerjee handed over a sealed cover to judges Arun Mishra and S.K. Kaul about Singh.

The bench that perused the documents pointed out that “things which have come before us are startling” and modified its own earlier order granting Singh protection against any inquiries.

It soon transpired that the report was from RAW and it accused Singh of being in touch with an ISI agent through a Dubai-based Indian businessman called Danish Shah. There were phone transcripts believed to be detailing conversations between the two.

It is now being said that Singh believes it was RAW officer Samant Goel — a batchmate of Asthana — who was at the forefront of the intelligence report against him.

In the ongoing CBI war against itself, Goel became collateral damage and found himself named in Verma’s FIR against Asthana.

Here is the reference to Goel in Verma’s FIR: “When I met Somesh in Dubai, during discussion he said that Shri Rakesh Asthana will surely do the work as he (Somesh) manages his involvement in Dubai and London for last many years. He further informed that Shri Rakesh Asthana stayed at his home in London last year. He also mentioned name of officers Samant Goel and Pervez Hayat with whom he is in touch…”

Somesh Prasad is the brother of Manoj Prasad through whom businessman Satish Sana allegedly paid the bribe to Asthana, which is the brunt of Verma’s FIR against his CBI colleague.

At the time in June-July, after the RAW report against him was leaked on social media, Singh was bailed out by none other than his own ED chief Karnal Singh, who told RAW chief Anil Dhasmana that Singh had kept him in the loop regarding his conversations with Shah.

But with Modi now taking action against the top officers of the CBI and summoning RAW chief Dhasmana, it is speculated that more blood could spill.

Intelligence sources are unwilling to speculate about Goel’s fate, who is also said to be in the running for the top job in the RAW once Dhasmana retires in a few months. Goel is also seen as the frontrunner for the post of Punjab DGP.