India removes investigative agency head amid probe of deputy

A rickshaw puller pedals past outdoor broadcasting vans of various television channels lined up outside Central Bureau of Investigation headquarters in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. 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. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

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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