New Delhi: On-leave CBI deputy director Rakesh Asthana, who has been accused of accepting bribe by his boss Alok Verma, has said that Hyderabad-based businessman’s claim that he had accepted the bribe through middlemen is baseless as he was in London during the entire period. 

Asthana has denied that the middleman met him at his office Delhi around the same time.

Sources said Sana Sathish Babu’s First Information Report or FIR claims that he had reportedly paid Rs 3 crore, through two middlemen -- Somesh and Manoj Prasad, as bribe to a senior CBI officer to get rid from questioning in a money laundering case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

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Asthana has told Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary that between December 2 and December 13, 2017, he was in London for hearings related to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya. Some news reports have confirmed that Asthana left Delhi on December 3 and stayed in London till at least December 15.

Asthana has claimed that it was CBI chief Alok Verma who had taken a bribe from the businessman and was under scanner by the investigation agency.

According to Sana Sathish Babu's statement, he went to Dubai on December 2 last year and met brothers Somesh and Manoj Prasad. They showed him a photograph of the officer on WhatsApp messenger. 

He claimed that the officer assured him that he won’t questioned in the Moin Qureshi case if he paid Rs 5 crore. He added that the bribe was paid in two parts -- Rs 1 crore was paid in Dubai and then Rs 1.95 crore was paid at Delhi's Press Club on December 13.

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Babu said that much later when he searched the internet, he realised that he has spoken to Rakesh Asthana, his statement added.

Both were sent on compulsory leave by the centre last month and a probe into corruption allegations against the two was initiated by the Chief Vigilance Commission.

Sources close to the investigation have told NDTV that key witness Sana Sathish Babu, who both the top two officers alleged had bribed the other, has stuck to his statement against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana.

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He added that Somesh Prasad had met the CBI officer in the said period, December 15 or 16, in his office and taken a confirmation that he won’t be named in the money laundering case. 

This meeting has been presented as the main evidence for Alok Verma's team against Asthana.

The two-week period assigned by the Supreme Court to the Central Vigilance Commission to complete its inquiry ends on Sunday. The top court will hear the case on Monday.

Verma and Asthana appear before CVC panel

CBI Director Alok Verma on Friday appeared before a panel headed by Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary and countered the corruption charges levelled against him by Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

Asthan also followed him but could not get an audience, sources said. Asthana came to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) office around 4.45 pm and stayed there for around 10 minutes, but could not meet any senior official as there was no scheduled appointment.

Sources added that Verma has reportedly given point-wise refusal to all the allegations levelled by Asthana before the panel comprising Vigilance Commissioners TM Bhasin and Sharad Kumar.

Justice AK Patnaik, a retired Supreme Court judge, who has been asked by the apex court to supervise the CVC inquiry was also present, the officials said.

Verma came to the CVC office early Friday morning and stayed there for about an hour.

The feud between Verma and Asthana escalated recently leading to registration of an FIR against the latter and others including Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who is in CBI custody in an alleged bribery case. Both the officers were sent on leave by the government.