A Delhi court has granted bail to Dubai-based Somesh Prasad who is accused of extorting crores of rupees from a Hyderabad businessman Sana Sathish Babu claiming that he could shield him in the CBI probe against millionaire meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

The extortion case was at the heart of the CBI vs CBI drama that played out in 2018 and led to the exit of then CBI chief Alok Verma and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana.

The case was initially registered as a bribery FIR against Asthana who had been overseeing the probe against Moin Qureshi in which Sana Sathish Babu was also being probed. Asthana’s name was cleared by the CBI earlier this year and heads the Border Security Force and the Narcotics Control Bureau. According to the CBI, Babu had reached out to Somesh Prasad who made him believe that he had spoken to Asthana and his team would spare Babu if he paid Rs 5 crore.

“…due to the registration of the present FIR, there was huge bickering in the higher echelons of the CBI i.e. amongst the top officers and due to which the IO as well as the said Special Director (Asthana) had to endure agony for a long time,” Special Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal said in his detailed order granting bail to Somesh Prasad and associate Sunil Mittal.

Prasad and Mittal were granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh each and two sureties of like amount.

In his order granting bail to the two, the court noted that the CBI, which was opposing bail, had not arrested the two accused who faced “serious allegations” according to the charge-sheet filed against them.

“The stand of the CBI/Investigating agency is most ambivalent with regard to the matter in hand, on the one hand, they did not arrest the accused persons at any point of time when they appeared before them during the investigations and on the other hand they are opposing their bail applications to tooth and nail. The said stand can be described by way of English idiom “Run with Hare and Hunt with the Hounds’ i.e to be good on terms with both the sides” the court said.

The court noted that the accused have been substantially cooperating in the investigation.

The FIR against former special director Rakesh Asthana, filed on a complaint by Sana, had stated that Manoj Prasad, a Dubai-based businessman told Satish Babu Sana about his “good connections” in CBI and that his brother Somesh Prasad would help save him in the Moin Qureshi case, being investigated by a special investigation team (SIT) led by Asthana since 2017.

Sana claimed that when he met Somesh Prasad in Dubai, he was told that Asthana would surely save him in this case. Somesh Prasad claimed that he had been managing the CBI officer’s investments in Dubai and London for many years.

At an earlier hearing in August, the judge had frowned at the lack of forward movement in the February 2017 case registered against millionaire meat exporter Moin Qureshi. In this FIR, the CBI had alleged that Moin Qureshi, apart from his day job of a meat exporter, also worked as a middleman for “certain public servants” and was helped by AP Singh who retired as CBI chief in 2012.

On February 11, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had exonerated its former special director Rakesh Asthana and deputy superintendent of police Devender Kumar in the 2018 bribery case registered by then agency chief Alok Verma.

The agency had concluded there was “no evidence” whatsoever to suggest that Asthana had ever demanded or been paid any bribe to save Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, the complainant in the case, in its probe against controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi.