Controversy surrounding its chief Ranjit Sinha, the Supreme Court and the Saradha scam kept the CBI in headlines during the year as it tried hard to maintain its reputation amid reprimands from courts over closure reports and charge sheets in the coal scam.
Sinha, who retired this month, kept attracting media attention as the Supreme Court made scathing observations against his purported meetings with the suspects in the 2G scam and coal cases and even directed him to recuse from the crucial 2G scam probe- a first in the history of the agency.
The issue of the purported visitors’ diary, which carried details of his alleged frequent meetings with the suspects in the scams at his residence, and the letter written to the then Attorney General allegedly seeking re-investigation of 2G case brought forth the ire of the Supreme Court on him.
Sinha, an IPS officer with over four decades of policing career, was asked by the apex court to recuse himself from the 2G scam probe with Additional Director R K Dutta given charge of the case till the CBI chief’s retirement.
The Supreme Court had also asked the CBI not to take any final decision on coal scam cases after the allegations against Sinha were leveled by two NGOs.
The apex court, however, did not take any adverse action against him in the final orders and closed the cases filed in this connection by NGOs Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation.
Sinha was replaced by Anil Sinha, a 1979-batch soft-spoken IPS officer from Bihar cadre, as CBI chief on December 2.
This was the first-ever selection of the CBI chief through the new process given under the Lokpal Act which came into being this year.
In May, the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to take over probe in the over Rs 2,000 crore Saradha scam in which about 25 lakh gullible investors were duped of their hard earned money by the group.
Even though it was ordered by the apex court, the probe done by the Special Investigation Team of the CBI got into a political blame game with the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal accusing the BJP of turning the agency into its “political tool”.
The Special Investigation Team under Joint Director Rajiv Singh meanwhile kept registering cases and making arrests with the probe reaching the doors of West Bengal government as state Transport Minister Madan Mitra was arrested by the CBI in connection with the scam recently.
So far, the CBI has registered six cases against the Saradha group of companies, 44 cases in Odisha against the other chit fund companies and four more cases in West Bengal against the non-Saradha chit fund companies.
Even as the CBI was grappling with mammoth investigation into the Saradha scam spread across multiple states, it started probe in another huge scam of over Rs 47,000 crore spread across Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan involving the Pearls group.
The modus operandi was similar as people were promised attractive returns and a piece of land for their investments.
With over five crore investors, the company’s business interests were spread across India, Australia and other countries.
Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, Managing Director of the Pearls group, who was booked by the CBI in February is yet to be arrested, as the agency claims that he is “cooperating” in the probe even as it maintains that with over 1000 bank account of the company, the probe is taking time to conclude.
In a similar case, the CBI also started probe against Jignesh Shah, promoter of the NSEL and his company for allegedly duping the investors and the state run companies.
The agency buried the Ishrat Jahan case filing its supplementary and final charge sheet in which the name of Amit Shah was not included which raised question marks about it.
The agency, however, clarified that there was no evidence against Shah, the then Minister of State for Home in Gujarat, in this particular case and the probe has been concluded.
In the much hyped Badaun case, in which two teenaged girls were found dead under mysterious circumstances, the CBI concluded that the deaths were result of suicide thus bringing to an end the theories of rape and murder propagated by the media which sourced it from the botched up autopsy conducted by the local doctors.
Besides investor-cheating cases, several other alleged white-collar crimes kept the agency on its toes during the year– the agency arrested
Chairman-cum Managing Director of Syndicate Bank, CEO of Censor Board, Vice-Chairman of Bhushan Steel, Registrar of Companies in Chennai among others in different cases of bribery.
Similarly, the agency also started preliminary enquiries against the over-invoicing of imports by Adani group, the deal between Tata and Unitech, Rs. 10,000 crore deal for supply of aircraft engines to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) by London-based Rolls Royce among others.
While the quest to unearth big-ticket corruption was going on with some big names of corporate sector and the government in the CBI net, the agency’s closure reports and charge sheets were being questioned in media.
The agency also brought to closure the Tatra deal case saying it could not find evidence of any bribe changing hand.
It also attempted to close seven coal scam cases including the one allegedly involving Hindalco, former coal secretary P C Parakh and others.
However, the attempts were stone-walled by the special CBI court which asked the agency to record the statement of then Coal Minister Manmohan Singh in the case.
As on December 12, five of the seven closure reports giving clean chits to the mining barons, and the coal ministry officials have been rejected by the special CBI court and sent for the reinvestigation.
The CBI has filed 36 FIRs in the scam and filed five charge sheets.
In an off-shoot of the 2G scam, the agency filed its charge sheet in the Aircel Maxis case against former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi besides Malaysian telecom tycoon T Ananda Krishnan and other executives.
The agency recorded the statement of the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram in connection with the FIPB clearance given to the deal.
In connection with yet another high-profile case arising out of the tapping of lobbyist Niira Radia’s phone calls, the CBI informed the apex court that it could not find any criminality in majority of the 14 preliminary enquiries started by it.