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Queer turn in CBI probe against Kochhars

Agency shifts IO, orders enquiry into his role in leak of information about raids  

The Chanda Kochhar graft case took a curious turn on Sunday with the CBI claiming that it transferred investigating officer Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra  to Ranchi after a “discreet” enquiry against Mishra suggested his role in leaking information about the searches against the accused persons. Following this, the searches were conducted after the charge was given to new investigating officer Mohit Gupta, agency sources said. Mishra was transferred  a day after he registered the FIR on January 22 against  Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon Group MD Venugopal Dhoot for graft and criminal conspiracy. Gupta took the charge on January 23 and the searches were conducted the next day. CBI officials said after a review some time ago, the preliminary enquiry (PE) was sped up and was converted into a regular case. Immediately after the registration of the case, the probe officials proposed searches on the premises of the accused persons, the officials said. However, a discreet enquiry was conducted as it was suspected that there was a possibility of information regarding searches being leaked, agency officials claimed. “A discreet enquiry was conducted and role of the Superintendent of Police and IO in the ICICI loan scam case, Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra, was strongly suspected. Hence he has been transferred pending detailed enquiry in the matter,” a CBI official said. “ICICI Bank case is one of the very important cases that was pending without progress,” claimed an agency official, adding, the role of Mishra and others, if any, in “keeping the PE pending” is also being looked into. Interestingly, the CBI did not issue any formal statement on the controversy surrounding Mishra’s transfer. The CBI sources sought to justify the transfer blaming Mishra for keeping the preliminary enquiry pending without any reasons. But Mishra could have been made a scapegoat for the delay as the question remains unanswered as to why other senior officers in the supervisory loop kept silent over the procrastination in converting the PE into a regular case. Senior officials cannot escape responsibility for the delay in conversion of the preliminary enquiry into a regular case as there is an e-office system in place in the agency and every one can see the status of a particular case at the click of a button, the sources further said. Another question that remains unanswered by the CBI is that if Mishra was suspected of leaking the information then why he was allowed to file the FIR especially when the agency had inputs on his role in delaying the preliminary enquiry. The officials also did not elaborate on the name of officials who cleared the registration of the FIR in the ICICI loan fraud case. The agency had on January 24 conducted searches on the premises of Videocon Group in Mumbai and offices of Nupower Renewables and Supreme Powers in Mumbai and Aurangabad. Nupower Renewables and Supreme Powers are controlled by Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar. The FIR alleged that during the tenure of Chanda Kochhar as MD of ICICI, six loans worth `1,875 crore were cleared for Videocon Group and its associated companies in which in two cases she herself was on the sanctioning committees. In its FIR, the CBI has also named several top bankers, including the present CEO of ICICI Bank Sandeep Baxi, alleging that they were also members of the sanctioning committees to give loan to Videocon. The role of Chairman of New Development Bank KV Kamath, Goldman Sachs India chairman Sonjoy Chatterjee, Standard Chartered Bank CEO Zarin Daruwala, Tata Capital head Rajiv Sabharwal and Tata Capital senior advisor Homi Khusrokhan need to be investigated, according to the FIR. The names of these bankers figure in the FIR that was registered after a year-long PE. Following reports of the ICICI case FIR, former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley advised the CBI against “investigative adventurism”. Monday, 28 January 2019 | Rakesh K Singh | New Delhi  

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