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Nine calls hold the key in the case against CBI’s special director Asthana

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New Delhi, Oct 22: There were nine calls that came under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation in the alleged bribery case against the CBI special director Rakesh Asthana.

Rakesh Asthana

The CBI analysed nine calls immediately after middleman Manoj Prasad was held. The investigative agency has registered a case against Asthana on the basis of claims made by a businessman, Sathish Sana, probed by him in a separate case, that he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5 crore by Manoj Prasad, an investment banker based in Dubai to get relief from repeated summons and a clean chit in the case, they said.

Also Read | War between CBI's top 2 downs morale of India's premier investigating agency

Surprisingly, Asthana, the second-in-command in the agency, had intimated the cabinet secretary nearly two months ago that Sana had allegedly paid a bribe of Rs 2 crore to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Chief Alok Verma to get relief in the case.

The agency, however, claimed on Sunday that Sana had appeared before the magistrate and stated that he made payments between December 2017, and October 2018 to a middleman, who had cited his purported connection with Asthana to ensure relief for him.

On the basis of his claims, the agency arrested Manoj Prasad on October 16 when he was returning from Dubai to allegedly collect an installment of the agreed bribe amount.

Nowhere in the statement, which is now part of the FIR, made public nearly five days after registration, Sana had mentioned any direct meeting, interaction or payment of bribe to Asthana.

The call data analysis suggests that the phone calls were allegedly exchanged between Asthana and a senior officer of another intelligence agency, who sought o conform the details of the middleman's arrest.

The calls were also exchanged between the senior officer and the wife of the middleman Somesh Prasad, brother of the middleman Manoj Prasad and others, the CBI says. Four calls were exchanged between Asthana and the senior officer on October 17, 2018, a day after the arrest. They claimed that Somesh Prasad, "somehow" got news of the latter's arrest on October 16, 2018 and immediately called his contact, the senior officer of the intelligence agency on the same day.

Also Read | How the ugly spat between the CBI's top 2 is hurting India's premier agency

A call was then made by the officer to Somesh within a minute, they claimed.

Next day, the intelligence agency officer allegedly called Asthana to purportedly know the situation. Three more calls were exchanged between the two, the agency claimed.

The officer of the intelligence agency also spoke to the wife of Somesh Prasad, they claimed. In addition to the call exchanges, the agency is also depending heavily on the Whatsapp messages recovered from Manoj Prasad's phone, they claimed.

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