Kolkata: Making its first arrest in the Narada sting case 30 months after taking over the probe, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday took into custody IPS officer S.M.H. Mirza, allegedly shown in the Narada news portal clips accepting Rs 5 lakh from the sting operators.
"He has been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation," a CBI spokesman told IANS over phone.
Mirza, grilled several times earlier in connection with the scam, was arrested after a fresh round of interrogation by the agency. He was produced before a CBI special court, which sent him to the agency's custody till September 30.
The CBI lawyers had sought five-day custody stating Mirza was not cooperating and seemingly suppressing facts.
Mirza's counsel said there was no need to take him into custody as being a responsible and high-ranking police officer, he would not flee. The counsel said Mirza had always cooperated and presented himself before the CBI on nine occasions for questioning.
CBI sources said Mirza had not been giving proper answers to the questions, claiming he did not remember the turn of events. The CBI officials even showed him a clip where he was seen talking over phone with someone whom he assured that an amount of Rs 1.7 crore had been deposited at the right place.
The CBI suspects that the person at the other end was some influential person and grilling Mirza in custody would help it get to the bottom of the matter.
Mirza was the Superintendent of Police of Burdwan district when the sting operation tape surfaced in 2016.
In the sting operation by Narada News boss Mathew Samuel, the IPS officer and number of senior Trinamool Congress leaders -- some of whom have crossed over to the BJP -- were purportedly seen taking cash or asking that money be deposited elsewhere in return for promising favours to a fictitious company.
The CBI lodged an FIR on April 17, 2017 against 13 people, including Mirza and a number of TMC Ministers and MPs, a month after the Calcutta High Court ordered it to conduct preliminary inquiry into the sting footage case.
Names of former Union Minister Mukul Roy and ex-Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee also figure in the FIR. Both Roy and Chatterjee later joined the BJP. Roy has been asked to appear for questioning on Friday.
The FIR was lodged after the preliminary inquiry revealed prima facie material for registration of a regular case relating to criminal conspiracy (IPC 120B) and under several provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Mirza, accused number 12, in the FIR was shown to have accepted Rs 5 lakh from the sting operator, the CBI said referring to the Narada video footage of April 25 and April 27, 2014.
Meanwhile, Samuel welcomed Mirza's arrest saying it was one of the "happiest days" of his life.
Recalling that Mirza had taken money from him, Samuel said: "He is the one who introduced (me to) many big politicians in Bengal, those who are in power."
The ruling Trinamool appeared evasive when quizzed on Mirza's arrest, but the opposition parties welcomed it with open arms.
"Whatever one has done, one has to bear the consequences. Who has arrested whom, how can I comment on that?" said Trinamool Secretary General and state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, adding "I don't get involved in such thing."
State BJP President Dilip Ghosh said the truth should come out and cases of corruption like Saradha ponzi scam and Narada should be taken to their logical climax.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Pradip Bhattacharya said Mirza's arrest was expected.
"The way he took money was repeatedly flashed in the media. The CBI hasn't done anything wrong by arresting him," said Bhattacharya, a former state Congress President.
Wondering why the CBI took three-and-a-half years to take Mirza into custody, Left Front legislature party leader Sujon Chakraborty said it was only the beginning and that more such arrests would follow.