Chandrani Banerjee has studied at the Columbia Journalism School, and covered the US elections, 2016. She has also filed an experience report for UN office of Drug and Crime about the Indian migrant workers, and worked with Outlook
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has offered everything that will keep the current soap opera lasting many “Monday-to-Friday” outings on the idiot box.
The duel between CBI Director Alok Verma and a Modi-foisted ‘Special Director’ Rakesh Asthana gripped the soap lovers a few weeks ago and intermittently lights a cracker with the two reaching the Supreme Court, the latest being a warning from Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi about required secrecy not being maintained.
There are WhatsApp jokes doing the rounds on ‘how CBI raided CBI and nabbed the most corrupt officer in the backyard of the CBI’. The virulence of the malaise this time, like a mutated and wrecking form of the dengue, has put India’s premier investigation agency on the ventilator in a political ICCU. The ‘doctor-on-call’ Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi, is busy on other calls, perhaps a few more foreign tours before… Ahem!
However, the man of the moment is M Nageswara Rao, the new interim director of CBI. If an unclean track record was the issue that led to the removal of the earlier director and special director, then the current interim CBI director would expectedly be clean, surely? But he is like a cleverly wrapped up dirty restaurant table just dressed up for the next trusting customer.
Rao, a 1986 batch Indian Police Service officer of the Odisha cadre, is from landholding Telugu community of Hyderabad and the classmate of politically blessed Garikapati Mohan Rao, who studied with him in the same school and belongs to the same village. Garikapati Rao enjoys Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s affection and proximity for long.
Nageswara has a string of controversial chapters behind him.
In 2014, he went to the court for correcting his date of birth. However, the civil services rules say if one needs to correct the date of birth, it has to be done within five years of joining the services. Nageswara was already more than 20 years beyond his allowed time. He ‘managed’ a decision in his favour, but it was clearly against the service rules.
Similarly, there is a matter of land purchase in Guntur where the land was purchased in his wife’s name and there is a court case of money laundering going on. But Rao enjoyed an uninterrupted run of luck, till a local Tamil news blogger and independent investigative online magazine Savukku reported about his illegal ‘landing’.
Speaking to Parliamentarian, the Savukku reporter who filed this report, Savukku Shankar said, “In his annual property returns, Nageswara Rao had declared that during his tenure as IG (Operations), Central Reserve Police Force, his wife Mannem Sandhya had purchased a land at Pedapalakaluru village, in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, measuring 13,668 sq ft, with a built-up area of 6,563 sq ft, along with her brother Ratna Babu at a cost of Rs 20 lakh. The source of funds for this purchase has been shown as a loan from a firm named Angela Mercantiles Private Limited, Kolkata.”
Further, Shankar added, “The firm Angela Mercantiles Private Limited is a shell company functioning from CA 39, Salt Lake City, Sector I, North 24 Parganas, Apart from this Angela Mercantiles, several other shell companies belonging to the same set of accused are reported to be functioning out of two small rooms of Salt Lake and another at 5 Clive Row, Room No. 42P, Sarvamangala Building, Kolkata.
The records of this firm were obtained from Registrar of Companies. Documents revealed that M Sandhya had given a loan of Rs 38,27,141/- to this company, which was outstanding as of 31.03.2013. This M Sandhya is none other than the wife of Nageswara Rao. Mannem Sandhya, w/o Shri Nageswara Rao, has suppressed her husband’s name from RoC records and has instead used her father’s name – Chinnam Vishnu Narayana in all the records”.
Shankar explained that in the details of shareholders filed by Angela Mercantile Private Limited, the address of M Sandhya, who is also a shareholder in the said Angela Mercantile, is shown as “CA 39, Salt Lake City, Sector I, North 24 Parganas, Kolkata,” which is the address of the shell companies and not the address of the shareholder.
Nageswara Rao’s wife had invested money to the extent of more than Rs 60 lakh in Angela Mercantiles and obtained Rs 25 lakhs as a loan which is pure money-laundering. These are the supportive documents to my claim.
During his tenure in his parent cadre, Odisha, Nageswara Rao had in the year 2011 purchased a government land using forged documents at Khurda, Odisha, from a lady. Due to reasons that remain unclear, the deal fell through and litigation in this regard is pending in 14th Additional Civil Court, Khurda in Civil Suit No. 9211/2015. Sources say, an out of court settlement with the seller was worked out.
Nageswara Rao ruled the roost as Joint Director, Chennai Zone of CBI. He was almost unstoppable. No one dared to question him. And those who tried were shown their place and doomed.
In another matter as a Joint Director CBI, he was supposed to conduct searches in the premises of a firm that has paid less amount for a high-value party and caused loss to State Bank of India of about Rs 50 crore, and this was noticed by CBI director Alok Verma.
Hyderabad-based Professor K Nageshwar, a former MLC and renowned political scientist said, “The closeness with top politicians is known about the current interim director. Also, there are other factors like the same community, college and village that works for him. The responsibility is to put everything aside and keep the national interest on top. Sadly, that has taken a back seat”.
Savukku Shankar filed many stories detailing the wrongdoings of people in high positions. CBI’s lack of interest and the reasons were also highlighted by him in his magazine.
Shankar said, “Hindustan Tele Printers Limited, or HTL, was started as a Public- Sector Unit of the Central Government, on 14th December 1960 at Guindy. It was intended to manufacture teleprinters, but at the initial stage, it assembled teleprinters imported from the Italian Company Olivetti. Another PSU, Hindustan Machine Tools Limited (HMT), manufactured many of the machines required for the Hindustan Teleprinters. Hindustan Teleprinters Limited continued as an active supplier to P&T Department. But economic liberalisation turned out to be a bane for this PSU, as it failed to understand the sea change in technology. The introduction of mobile services was the final nail in the coffin of HTL. It turned into a loss-making unit.
When the central government wanted to commence a PSU in Chennai, TN government was liberal in allotting prime land in Chennai keeping in mind the employment it would generate. The land was allotted in 1965 and the condition for allotment was specific. The land so allotted should never be used for anything other than the purpose it has been allotted.
After HTL became a sick unit, its debts started mounting. HTL owed money to banks, employees, the state government by way of sales tax, etc. Banks to which HTL owed money formed a consortium headed by SBI.
This consortium investigated the matter and found out discrepancies. The CBI was supposed to investigate the case and book the culprits. We filed a detailed report. If at all the CBI bothered to conduct any proper investigation, the enormity of the scam and the overwhelming evidence available could have been unearthed. The documents which are in the possession of Savukku were never collected by the agency and instead, the agency was very keen to give a clean chit to VGN, a realty company, and other officials.”
At this juncture, a detailed complaint was sent to the Director CBI, against Nageswara Rao. The relevant portion of the complaint is shared below. And these very documents were part of a complaint filed before the Supreme Court by a Delhi-based NGO, Common Cause, to draw the attention towards the arbitrary functioning of the agency.
Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan is representing Common Cause in the court. The official complaint says, “Though the FIR (VGN) was registered on 28.12.2016, Shri Nageswara Rao failed to instruct the IO to conduct any search operations in connection with the case. Due to this serious lapse, sources say, some serious evidence of bribery by the VGN Developers to various state and central government officials was lost, and the said evidence was published in media last week. Instead of allotting this case for investigation to an IO of police/investigation background, Shri. Rao assigned the investigation of this sensitive case to one Shri Velayutham, who is a deputy from Indian Bank for reasons best known to him.
“Shri Nageswara Rao failed to issue any clear instructions with regard to the investigation of this case or monitor the progress of this investigation. However, he had ensured that he is always kept in the loop with regard to any developments. Though the allegation as per the FIR is that the land in dispute which was purchased by VGN Developers was purchased below market price, there are widespread allegations of the involvement of two senior IAS officers of TN cadre who facilitated the issuance of NOC for the sale. Sources also claim that one Rama Mohana Rao, who was a former Chief Secretary of TN government, had also received sizeable money from VGN promoters.
“However, no investigation whatsoever has been conducted in this regard. Further, as per sources, VGN Developers sent part of the bribe amount of Rs 2 crore intended for the SBI officials through one Ganesh Raj, retired Assistant General Manager of SBI. Rs 80 lakh of the bribe amount was sent by VGN Developers to HTL account. From the HTL account, the above- mentioned Ganesh Raj transferred the amount to his account, later encashed the same and handed over the bribe amounts in cash to A.1 Leon Therattil and A.2 Ramadoss. A simple verification of the bank accounts of Ganesh Raj and HTL would have revealed evidence of bribery. But, Shri Nageswara Rao chose not to touch any crucial area of investigation.”
Now, according to sources, Nageswara Rao had instructed the IO Shri Velayutham to give a closure report in the above RC and accordingly a report stating that the Bank has not suffered any loss, the amount due has been recovered, and no further action is required has been given and the same has been approved and sent to Delhi by Nageswara Rao.
Sources also reveal that Nageswara Rao is strongly connected with the Telugu officers in Tamil Nadu and is in the habit of passing on several sensitive information to the officers. One such officer who is regularly in touch with Shri Nageswara Rao, is former Chief Secretary of TN, Rama Mohana Rao.
The community connection and the classmate club allegedly gave Nageswara Rao an edge to manage such allegations against him. His much-known closeness with Garikapati Mohan Rao has allegedly helped him to manage such issues.
KV Chowdary, the current Central Vigilance Commissioner, who is the nodal authority for induction and repatriation of officers in CBI, is close to Chandrababu Naidu. Therefore Chowdary keeps Garikapati Mohan Rao happy.
Though the present CBI Director, after making due verification tried to repatriate Rao, Chowdary shot down his proposal, say sources. A detailed source report was sent to CBI Director, Alok Kumar Verma, following which he had ordered a discreet enquiry into allegations on Nageswara Rao. Alarmingly, the discreet enquiry had thrown up enough material not only to remove Nageswara Rao from the CBI but also to launch prosecution against him, add sources. However, due to the backing of Central Vigilance Commissioner Chowdary, who put his foot down and refused to permit the CBI Director to take any sort of action against Nageswara Rao, nothing could be done.
A helpless CBI Director decided to save the cases at least from going down the drain. Swiftly, Alok Verma ordered the transfer of the investigation of important cases from Chennai Zone of CBI to Banking and Securities Fraud Cell (BSFC) of Bengaluru. Nageswara Rao’s jurisdiction does not extend to BSFC, which works under the direct supervision of a separate Joint Director, meant exclusively for BSFC.
A former Assistant Director of CBI, while requesting anonymity, said: “Forget about a position, if there is a single allegation on someone that person is not fit to be an officer. And in his case, I think there is enough for consideration”.
Only time will tell whether Nageswara Rao will become a full-fledged director of the CBI. Judiciary is the arm of governance that keeps the faith of the common man afloat. And all that is played out in the past few weeks has certainly eroded the faith of the common man.