India removes investigative agency head amid probe of deputy

NEW DELHI (AP) — The government of India placed the director of the federal investigative agency and his deputy on leave on Wednesday days after the agency filed a case against the deputy alleging that he took bribes to settle a money laundering case.

A government appointment committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi put out an order around 2 a.m. Wednesday sending the Central Bureau of Investigation’s top two officials on leave and appointing a joint director as the interim head.

India’s Central Vigilance Commission, an autonomous anti-corruption body, had recommended the removal of director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana on Tuesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in a news conference Wednesday, calling it a “bizarre and unfortunate” situation.

A feud between Verma and Ashthana had been simmering since before Asthana was promoted to the agency’s second-highest post last year.

Under Verma, the CBI filed a case against Asthana on allegations that he took bribes from a meat exporter the agency was investigating for money laundering.

On Monday, the agency arrested its deputy superintendent of police — the lead in the money-laundering investigation — on forgery charges related to the allegations against Asthana. On Tuesday, Asthana asked the Delhi High Court to quash the case against him. The court has set a hearing for next week.

The Supreme Court is set to hear Verma’s challenge to his removal on Friday.

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