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The Gujarat cadre IPS officer and the current chief of BSF and NCB, Rakesh Asthana has been given clean chit by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Vadodara-based Sandesara brothers’ Sterling Biotech bribery case.

Asthana, who is also a front-runner for the post of the next CBI chief, was under the scanner for certain handwritten diaries maintained by the Sandesara brothers, in which as per the allegations Asthana was the “beneficiary” of unaccounted money.

In handwritten diaries, it was mentioned multiple times that money was paid to one “RA.” This was suspected to be Asthana since he earlier worked as Police Commissioner of Vadodara and reportedly had close family relations with the Sandesara brothers. However, it was later clarified that “RA” stood for running account.

The Sandesara brothers and other directors of the Sterling Biotech are fugitives and wanted by the Indian agencies in connection with a Rs 5,383 crore bank loan fraud case.

This is the second clean chit to Rakesh Asthana by the investigating agency, who had a controversial stint in the CBI until he was removed in 2018. Currently the chief of the Border Security Force (BSF), Asthana was cleared by the CBI last March in another bribery case, linked to meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

As per sources, RK Shukla, who retired as CBI Director last week, ‘signed the file giving a clean chit to Rakesh Asthana and others in the mid of January.’

“It was a unanimous opinion of the investigation team, supervisory officers, and the competent authority to close the case for want of evidence,” sources reported. “It was a roving inquiry and nothing has been found in it,” added a CBI official.

Background

On 30 August 2017, the CBI had filed a case against three officers, Sterling Biotech, and unknown public servants for alleged corruption. The case was based on a diary seized from the premises of the promoters of Sterling Biotech, brothers Chetan and Nitin Sandesara, by the Income Tax department in 2011.

Subsequently, while relying on the noting’s in the diary, the then CBI director Alok Verma had accused Rakesh Asthana of receiving around Rs 4 crore in bribes from the Sandesara brothers.

As per sources, “The 12-digit numbers written against Asthana on the diary was examined, there was no such bank account anywhere. Every aspect was looked into in detail in the three-year investigation, and for lack of evidence, the investigation team was of the opinion that the case should be closed.”

In 2017, Alok Verma had opposed the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as Special Director and, in a note submitted to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, alleged that the diary notings showed 23 entries in the name of the officer to the tune of Rs 3,94,72,106 (around 4 crores). Despite the objection, Asthana was appointed.


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