CBI: Caught in the crossfire     

Neither Moin Qureshi nor the other two businessmen caught in the crossfire in the Central Bureau of Investigation quite fit the description of being a ‘mouse’

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Uttam Sengupta

Neither Moin Qureshi nor the other two businessmen caught in the crossfire in the Central Bureau of Investigation quite fit the description of being a ‘mouse’.

Take the case of Manoj Prasad, an investment banker based in Dubai, who was arrested by the CBI when he landed in Delhi on October 16. The day before, Sathish Babu, a businessman from Hyderabad, had filed an FIR that Prasad had received from him a sum of Rs 2.95 crore for paying Rakesh Asthana. The total demand was for Rs five crore and Prasad, he informed the CBI, would be arriving to collect the remaining amount.

Asthana let it be known that he had neither met Prasad nor Sathish Babu. The amount was paid to CBI director Alok Verma, he alleged.

But while Prasad, son of a former R&AW officer, remains a shadowy figure in India, in Dubai itself, he is a high flier, one of the ‘100 most influential Indians’ in the Gulf and the Middle East. In an interview to Khaleej Times in 2015, Prasad, who started as a banker with HSBC in 2000 and worked for Barclays and Morgan Stanley before setting up his own boutique firm, Que Capital, bragged that he had two apartments in Burj Khalifa and another one in Dubai Marina. He had disposed of his villa on Emirates Hill. A member of the Indo-European Business Forum, UK and as the Chief Advisor to the Executive Committee of the Asian-Arab Chamber of Commerce, he is clearly a prominent Indian in Dubai.

But Sathish Babu was being repeatedly summoned by the CBI and, he claims in the FIR, was every time asked the same question. Why did he pay Moin Qureshi the princely sum of Rupees 50 lakh? His explanation that it was an investment in one of Qureshi’s companies cut no ice with CBI DySP Devinder Kumar. In desperation, he claims to have turned to Manoj Prasad for bailing him out. It’s a curious story involving three businessmen. And the dots are yet to be joined

Even more interesting is that Prasad and his firm are known to facilitate investment in Dubai of a host of IAS and IPS officers from India.

Moin Qureshi, described most often in the Indian media as the ‘controversial meat exporter’, is again no spring chicken. A ‘Doon School old boy’ and a graduate from St Stephen’s, he is being investigated for tax evasion, not disclosing ownership of a flat in London and bank accounts in Singapore. Besides, he is accused of being friends with senior bureaucrats and police officers, giving them expensive gifts, bribing them on behalf of offenders and managing their ‘ill-gotten’ wealth.

Qureshi’s ‘friendship’ with former CBI Director A.P. Singh and Ranjit Sinha, who he apparently called on 70 times at his residence, have cast a cloud on both the former CBI directors. Qureshi himself was arrested by ED and spent four months in jail before obtaining bail in December.

While Qureshi keeps a low profile, it is known that in 2002, his wife engaged French architect and interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot to build a country house at Chattarpur on Delhi-Gurgaon Road. The house, said to have been built at a cost of Rs 200 crore, sprawls over five acres and is just one of several houses the Qureshi’s own in Delhi. Clearly, a couple of crores of Rupees is small change for the man whose daughter Pernia ironically studied ‘Criminal Justice’ at George Washington University and is married to the son of a Chartered Accountant based in London.

The third businessman in the CBI net, Sathish Babu Sana is also not a spring chicken. Anyone who agrees to pay Rupees five crore as bribe just to ensure that he is not summoned by the CBI for questioning, has to be well-heeled. And true enough, the former employee of Andhra Pradesh Electricity Board made his money in real estate and is best known for launching India’s first ‘Playboy’ Club in Hyderabad.

But Sathish Babu was being repeatedly summoned by the CBI and, he claims in the FIR, was every time asked the same question. Why did he pay Moin Qureshi the princely sum of Rupees 50 lakh? His explanation that it was an investment in one of Qureshi’s companies cut no ice with CBI DySP Devinder Kumar. In desperation, he claims to have turned to Manoj Prasad for bailing him out. It’s a curious story involving three businessmen. And the dots are yet to be joined.

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