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CBI allowed to book ex-Tehelka Editor and aide of P Chidambaram under Official Secrets Act

The Union Law Ministry has decided to allow the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to book former Editor of Tehelka, Upendra Rai under the Officials Secrets Act. This comes after the Enforcement Directorate had earlier attached assets, including nine immovable properties, worth Rs 26.65 crore in connection with a money laundering case.

Upendra Rai, the former editor of the controversial Tehelka, is considered to be one of the Benami petitioners of the former finance minister P Chidambaram, who himself is facing cases of severe financial irregularities. Upendra Rai is now investigated by both CBI and ED for his involvement in the extortion from businessmen and in helping them in return to settle cases with the Income Tax Department and other agencies.

One of the biggest allegations against him is that of him being one of the Benami’s of former finance minister P Chidambaram and owing as many as 19 residential buildings in various cities. The properties supposedly include a 30 crore bungalow in Delhi’s Greater Kailash and flats in Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow.

The searches conducted by the agencies on the premises of Rai had helped obtain his possession call data records of businessmen and nearly 140 classified Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in a pen drive. Reportedly, the STRs are connected with the firms which are being probed by various agencies. This confidential information has been sent to law enforcement agencies for further probe on his involvement in money laundering and other export/import fraud against individuals or firms.

The Law Ministry believes that the STRs are meant to be classified and can only be accessed by the concerned agency. STRs are not disclosed under the Right to Information Act. Hence Law Ministry believes that “it would not be necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of any particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state”.

Reportedly, if Upendra Rai is found to be involved in the violation of the OSA, he would be punishable with imprisonment extending up to three years in this case. This would be in addition to penalties that are handed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Prevention of Corruption Act for which Rai is being probed by the ED and the CBI, said sources.

Reportedly, Upendra Rai is believed to have received huge amounts of money has extortion from different companies and corporate houses. According to ED, he has allegedly generated and laundered money worth at least Rs.29.58 crore.

Rai was arrested on June 8 by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) at the Tihar Jail, moments after he secured bail in a Central Bureau of Investigation case related to alleged extortion and dubious financial transactions. He has reportedly amassed huge wealth and as many as 19 residential properties in various cities in the country, including a bungalow worth Rs 30 crores in Delhi. Rai was arrested by CBI in May 2018.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had dismissed Upendra Rai’s plea to restrain ED officer Rajeshwar Singh from investigating a graft case against him but dismissed the plea allowing officer Singh to proceed with the case. It is reported that Rai is also allegedly involved in money laundering and IPL betting. He was associated with the Sahara Group before he joined Tehelka. He is even accused of threatening and blackmailing CBI officers who were investigating Sahara’s, Subroto Roy.

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