CBI investigator shifted; govt denies meddling

CBI investigator shifted; govt denies meddling
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Highlights

A day after the CBI booked former ICICI Manging Director MD and Chief Executive Officer CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and industrialist VN Dhoot in the Rs 3,250crore loan case on January 22, the agency transferred its investigating officer Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra to its economic offences wing in Ranchi

New Delhi: A day after the CBI booked former ICICI Manging Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and industrialist VN Dhoot in the Rs 3,250-crore loan case on January 22, the agency transferred its investigating officer Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra to its economic offences wing in Ranchi.

An agency source said Mishra, a Superintendent of Police in Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and was part of the Banking and Securities Fraud Cell (BSFC), was transferred to the agency's Economic Offences wing on January 23.

Interestingly, two days later Union minister Arun Jaitley suggested that the bookings were "investigative adventurism" - a sentiment that was echoed by other senior ministers. However, the Union government has dismissed suggestions of meddling. Jaitley's comment was supported by Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman.

Subsequently, the Congress accused the ruling government of pressurizing the CBI and signalling it to "go slow" in the investigations into the Kochhars.

"His (Jaitley's) statement is extraordinary...It also smacks of double standards...He called Vodafone (case) tax terrorism and then did exactly the same thing in regard to Cairn. He calls ICICI case investigative adventurism yet does exactly the same in regard to his predecessor," said Congress MP Jairam Ramesh.

On January 22, the CBI had booked Chanda Kochhar, Deepak Kochhar and Dhoot, besides four companies -- NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRL), Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL), Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL) and Videocon Industries Ltd (VIL) -- in connection with the case. The source said that Mohit Gupta replaced Mishra as the new investigating officer of the case. "The raids were carried out at four locations in Maharashtra's Mumbai and Aurangabad under Gupta's supervision on January 24."

Referring to the reasons for transfer of Mishra, the agency source said: "ICICI loan case is one of the very important cases that was pending without progress. The preliminary enquiry (PE) was earlier registered after review some time ago.

"The PE was sped up and converted into a regular case (RC) or FIR. Immediately after the registration of the RC, searches were proposed to be conducted soon. However, it was suspected that there was a possibility of information regarding searches being leaked.

A discreet inquiry was conducted, and the role of Mishra was strongly suspected," he said. "Hence Mishra has been transferred pending detailed inquiry in the matter being serious," he said. The source added that the role of Mishra in keeping this case pending and others, if any, is being looked into. The CBI had instituted a PE on March 31, 2018, against Deepak Kochhar, Videocon Group officials and others to determine whether any wrongdoing was involved in the sanctioning of loan by the ICICI Bank as part of a consortium.

"There is a fundamental difference between investigative adventurism and professional investigation," Jaitley wrote in a Facebook blog post blaming the CBI for casting the net too wide. Some former CBI officers, too, agreed with Jaitley's criticism of the FIR, saying that naming so many top officials in an FIR when they had not been arraigned as accused was a step too far.

A former CBI Director also said that the CBI only names those against whom there's evidence, and persons who are under suspicion are referred to as 'unknown others'.

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