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The Moin Qureshi probe that split CBI and led to the war within

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The dubious meat exporter allegedly had links to ex-CBI directors and was involved in extortion, which Rakesh Asthana was probing.

New Delhi: The Moin Qureshi case is in the headlines once again. Not for any developments in the investigation but because it is at the heart of the current crisis in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The extortion case registered against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana and DSP-rank officer Devender Kumar relates to the Qureshi probe. While Asthana headed the SIT in the case, Kumar was the investigating officer (IO).

A suspect in the Qureshi case, Sathish Sana, named Asthana as one of the CBI officers he had paid Rs 3 crore to get the agency off his back.

Meanwhile, Asthana, in a letter to the Central Vigilance Commission, dragged CBI director Alok Verma into the case, alleging that he had tried to influence the investigation and that the accused had, in fact, paid Rs 2 crore to the director.

Also read: CBI feud is what happens when you ‘prostitute’ an investigating agency: Arun Shourie

What is the Moin Qureshi case? Why is it important? How is it linked to former CBI directors? ThePrint answers.

Who is Qureshi?

Moin Akthar Qureshi, one of India’s biggest meat exporters, began his foray into the business by opening a slaughterhouse in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur in 1993.

Qureshi, who completed his education from Doon School in Dehradun and graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, now has over 30 companies and has also ventured into the real estate sector.

Qureshi is believed to be part of an influential circle of big businessmen, public servants including officers from the CBI and intelligence agencies, and actors.

He reportedly went to school with A.P. Singh, a former CBI director.

His daughter, currently in London, was to feature in a film opposite Shah Rukh Khan, which Qureshi had reportedly invested in, but the project did not take off.

The IT raids that put Qureshi in trouble

Qureshi first came under the IT scanner in 2011 after he had flown in Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to perform at his daughter’s wedding. The singer was detained on his way back by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence for not disclosing foreign currency worth Rs 56 lakh, which he was carrying in cash.

On the radar of the Income Tax department since then, Qureshi’s premises were finally raided in 2014. The raids revealed details of many offshore companies that Qureshi had allegedly floated to stash money abroad, indulge in hawala transactions and evade taxes to the tune of Rs 150 crore.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had noted that the Income Tax department was tasked with leading the investigation in the case as the CBI was then headed by A.P. Singh, Qureshi’s close friend.

On the basis of examination of the documents, telephone intercepts and balance sheets, the IT department informed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI about Qureshi’s offshore assets.

The raids brought to the fore Qureshi’s association with former CBI director A.P. Singh, after a series of Blackberry Messenger messages that the duo had exchanged were identified.

Qureshi allegedly extorted money from suspects on behalf of CBI directors Singh and Sinha, promising relief. He was finally arrested by the ED in August 2016.

The ED chargesheet

The chargesheet, which runs into over 7,000 pages, alleges that Qureshi extorted Rs 7.5 crore from two businessmen — Pradeep Koneru and Sathish Sana — using the name of former CBI directors Ranjit Sinha and A.P. Singh.

Sathish Sana is the businessman who later named Asthana as the officer whom he allegedly paid to escape the CBI’s attention. Asthana began leading the CBI probe in the case from 2017.

Also read: All you wanted to know about the war in CBI between Rakesh Asthana and Alok Verma

The ED further claimed that the charges against Qureshi had been corroborated by BBM messages and statements of 35 witnesses, which were recorded during the investigation.

According to the ED, Qureshi also owned 17 properties in India and held over 45 foreign accounts. He is also alleged to have done a transaction of over Rs 4 crore through the hawala route.

Qureshi allegedly has registered four companies abroad — S.M. Productions, Pernia Qureshi Consultancy, Abdul Majid Qureshi Proprietary Firm and Great Height Infratech — and owns properties in London and Dubai.

The ED probe had also revealed that Qureshi sent gifts to serving bureaucrats holding important positions in the government.

The blackberry messages

The ED chargesheet states that over 22 blackberry messages were allegedly exchanged between Qureshi and government servants revealing how he allegedly took huge sums of money from people promising them undue favour from public servants, including top CBI officers.

The ED said the BBM messages indicated that some government servants dealing with sensitive cases were providing confidential information to the meat exporters in exchange for favours.

“In support of this, two public witnesses came forward and gave their statements that they had paid around Rs 7.5 crore to Moin Qureshi to help them in getting relief from investigating agency, CBI,” the ED chargesheet says.

While the original ED chargesheet put on record facts suggesting Qureshi’s involvement, it does not say much on the role of CBI directors Singh and Sinha.

Later investigation, however, allegedly established a link between Sinha and Qureshi, who allegedly communicated through Blackberry messages.

The controversial messages 

In one of the BBM messages, Qureshi apparently sought Singh’s help to get a security clearance from the intelligence bureau in connection with a business project.

But Singh’s messages indicate that he allegedly contacted Qureshi to buy some items for his house including carpets, garden umbrellas and furniture.

Qureshi had also reportedly sought Singh’s help to reach out to then Union Minister Kamal Nath for a Delhi Golf Club membership.

In October 2011, Singh reportedly received a BBM from Qureshi asking to help T.S. Narayanaswamy, ex-chairman of the Bank of India, who Qureshi said was known to his family.

Also read: At the root of the CBI power struggle lies the ‘Gujarat division’

The CBI at the time was investigating Narayanaswamy for his alleged role in extending bank credit to a Pharma firm, Rajat Pharmachem, which allegedly defrauded public sector banks, including the Bank of India, to the tune of Rs 800 crore.

In his reply, Singh allegedly told Qureshi that a chargesheet was already filed in the matter and his friend should approach the court for relief.

In another BBM exchange, Qureshi reportedly approached Singh for help to bag a project with GMR. In one of the messages, Singh reportedly invited Qureshi for a meeting with GMR, to his house.

A few days before Qureshi was raided by IT, he reportedly sought Singh’s help in getting IB clearance for a project. Qureshi reportedly conveyed to Singh that he was out and his file was on DIB (Director of Intelligence Bureau) table, to which Singh reportedly replied saying that he would tell GMR.

When ED contacted Blackberry, the Canadian company confirmed the authenticity of messages exchanged through its secured network.

The diary — a further link to Sinha 

The guest diary that was seized from the residence of former CBI director Sinha showed over 90 visits by Qureshi and his wife to 2-Janpath in just 15 months.

Investigators allege that Qureshi often took several high-profile accused being investigated by the agency to Sinha’s residence.

Among the high-profile accused Qureshi allegedly took to Sinha’s residence are Sanjeev Nanda, whose father Suresh Nanda was being investigated by the CBI in a defence scam and Koneru Prasad, an accused in the Emaar MGF land scam in Andhra Pradesh.

A report on the diary entries was also submitted to the Supreme Court by then special director M.L. Sharma.

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