CBI forms SIT to speed up Mallya, Agusta probes

NEW DELHI (TIP): CBI has formed a Special Investigation Team under Gujarat-cadre 1984-batch IPS officer Rakesh Asthana – presently posted as additional director in the agency – to further probe the Rs 3,546-crore VIP chopper scam, Vijay Mallya case and a few other corruption cases.

The development comes even as CBI is preparing to summon some senior IAF and defence ministry officials whose names were mentioned in the bribery note of European middleman Christian Michel. Sources also told TOI that “bank accounts of some of the accused named in the FIR have also been frozen during the probe”.

Asthana had earned the praise of then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for the probe into serial blasts in Baroda, Surat and Ahmedabad in 2008. He was also associated with the investigations in Sabarmati Express train blast at Godhra in February 2002.

Along with Asthana, officers Ashwini Chand and Sai Manohar of CBI are part of the SIT to expedite the crucial probes. “The SIT has been formed to focus on quickly probing the national and international chapter of these cases as huge amounts are involved,” said an officer.

The development is significant as MoD had shared with CBI details of officials who handled AgustaWestland contract between 2005 and 2013. Some of the officials mentioned in the alleged “bribery” note presently hold important posts in government and constitutional bodies. CBI is in the process of identifying the beneficiaries of bribe money from the Anglo-Italian firm, which was routed to India through a web of companies, and SIT will take it forward, said a source. The alleged note, dictated by Michel and written by another European middleman Guido Haschke, described how “bribe money” of 30 million euros was to be distributed among bureaucrats, politicians and IAF officials. Apart from defence officials, the ED has also started a probe into references made under the heads “BUR” (bureaucrats) and “POL” (politicians) in the note, which is


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