Nageshwar Rao, who was appointed CBI interim director Wednesday, has been accused of misappropriating funds and scuttling a probe.
New Delhi: Nageshwar Rao, the additional director-rank officer who was posted as the interim CBI director Wednesday, has a controversial past.
The officer, who headed the CBI’s Chennai zone and was transferred by director Alok Verma, has been at the centre of several complaints of alleged misappropriation of funds and of scuttling investigations.
Soon after Rao’s appointment, DMK chief M.K. Stalin alleged that Rao had been brought in to “cover up the Rafale scam investigations”.
“Several complaints were sent to CBI director against Nageshwar Rao and there are reports that the CBI director Alok Verma wanted to initiate investigations into allegations against him. Is this move initiated to cover up Rafale scam investigations?” he told ANI.
Stalin also alleged that Rao’s appointment was nothing but an attempt by the BJP government “to ensure that the CBI remains a caged parrot”.
“Nageshwar Rao met OPS (Tamil Nadu deputy CM O. Panneerselvam) at the state secretariat. When CBI is investigating the Gutka Scam & MHC (Madras High Court) has ordered an investigation against EPS (Tamil Nadu CM E. Palaniswami) for awarding contracts to his relatives, the move to send (on leave) CBI director Alok Verma has raised suspicions,” Stalin said.
Who is Nageshwar Rao?
Rao, who hails from Borenarsapur village in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, is a 1986 batch IPS officer of the Odisha cadre. After serving in Chennai as the zonal CBI head, he was made a joint director and was recently promoted as an additional director.
A graduate of Osmania University, Rao took up a research project in IIT Madras.
He is said to be close to Central Vigilance Commissioner, K.V. Chaudhary, who is the nodal authority for the induction and repatriation of officers in the CBI.
Sources revealed that Rao was abruptly transferred from the Chennai zone to Chandigarh last year after a series of allegations against him. The action, sources said, was taken by CBI director Verma after Chaudhary refused to repatriate Rao out of the agency.
Alleged scuttling of a probe
Rao allegedly did not carry out the required investigation into a bank fraud and money laundering case involving VGN Developers in Chennai.
The CBI’s anti-corruption branch, Chennai Zone, probing the case failed to conduct any searches either in the houses of accused or in the office of VGN Developers. Rao was overlooking the investigation.
A detailed complaint regarding this ‘lax attitude’ was believed to have been sent to the CBI director, alleging that Rao failed to instruct the investigating officer in the case to conduct searches. This, the complaint said, led to serious loss of evidence.
The complaint also alleged that Rao had instructed the investigating officer to file a closure report in the case.
There are indications that following the said complaint, Verma ordered a discreet inquiry into the matter, which reportedly found sufficient evidence to repatriate him out of CBI. Rao was, however, reportedly backed by CVC Chaudhary.
This is when Verma is believed to have ordered the transfer of the investigations in important cases from the Chennai zone to the CBI’s banking and securities fraud cell in Bengaluru.
Misappropriation of funds
Another set of allegations were levied against Rao in 2016, when he was accused of financial irregularities from his time as the chief of fire service directorate in Bhubaneshwar.
Rao was accused of misappropriating nearly Rs 3 crore in the purchase of yellow uniform for fire officials in the state.
According to reports, in December 2014, the Odisha fire service directorate gave a new look to its 5,000 employees by introducing two sets of additional uniforms — yellow dungarees and red trousers. But this was done without a proper channel and sanctions.
During an audit, the financial department is believed to have found that there was no approval either from the home department or the DGP for the introduction of the yellow uniform for which the money was spent. Rao had later argued that no such sanction was required.