The Central Bureau of Investigation on Saturday said allegations that its Joint Director AK Sharma weakened the lookout circular against liquor baron Vijay Mallya to allow him to flee India were baseless. The agency was referring to Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s claim that the CBI had aided Mallya’s escape by changing the “detain” notice to “inform”. Gandhi also called Sharma Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “blue-eyed boy” in the CBI.
“Some baseless allegations have been made by certain individuals against a senior officer of the CBI,” agency spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said, according to The Times of India. “As has been stated a number of times earlier, the decision to change the lookout circular was taken because at the time there was not sufficient grounds for the CBI to detain and arrest him.”
In 2016, Sharma was a joint director at the agency and was promoted to the position of additional director general in April. “The decision was taken at the appropriate level as a part of process, and not individually by the officer as alleged,” Dayal said according to IANS.
Gandhi had also accused Sharma of being “in charge of [businessmen] Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi’s escape plans”. But Dayal said the CBI received a notice from the Punjab National Bank against Nirav Modi and Choksi almost a month after they had left the country.
“Therefore the question of any CBI officer having any hand in their fleeing the country does not arise,” the spokesperson said. “Prompt action was taken by CBI in the case immediately after the complaint was received from the bank.”
On Friday, Gandhi claimed that Narendra Modi had approved the downgrading of the lookout notice against Mallya. He accused the CBI of aiding the liquor baron’s “great escape” by “quietly changing the ‘detain’ notice to ‘inform’”. The day before, the agency claimed it had diluted the notice in November 2015 as it did not consider Mallya to be a flight risk at the time.
Mallya, who is currently in London, is being tried by the Westminster Magistrate’s Court there. He is accused of defrauding Indian banks of over Rs 9,000 crore.