A controversy erupted on Friday as the main investigating officer (IO) in the Nirav Modi money laundering case was relieved of his charge by the Enforcement Directorate in Mumbai, an order overturned by the agency headquarters here within minutes.
The order divesting Joint Director Satyabrat Kumar of the charge of Mumbai zonal unit-I of the ED was issued by its top officer in the western zone, Special Director Vineet Agarwal, on Friday when Kumar was in London with regard to Modi's bail hearing in the extradition case.
As soon as the news came out, sources said, ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra cancelled the order in Delhi and restored the charge to Kumar.
Kumar, an Indian Revenue Service officer of the Customs and Indirect Taxes service, was divested of his charge by Agarwal on the technical ground and rule that no IO can continue at one post beyond five years and no order for his continuation was issued by the ED headquarters. Special Director Agarwal, in his signed order, relieved Kumar from all the investigations, including the USD 2-billion PNB Bank fraud case against Nirav Modi, and handed over the additional charge of Kumar to his immediate superior authority of Additional Director (western region), who also sits in Mumbai.
The order, however, allowed Kumar to continue probing coal blocks allocation cases as he was appointed IO in this case by the Supreme Court and no officer can be changed without the apex court's permission.
Sensing the controversy being generated over the abrupt removal of the IO in this crucial case being monitored at the top level of the government, the ED headquarters cancelled the order immediately. This cancellation will be followed by an approval of extension of tenure of Kumar which has already been sent for clearance to the Department of Revenue under the Union Finance Ministry and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the sources said.
The ED also issued a clarification through its Twitter handle. "Certain media reports have been appearing that Joint Director supervising investigation in the case of Nirav Modi has been relieved. This report is not correct and denied," it said.