New Delhi | The Pegasus leaked list contains numbers of former CBI Director Alok Verma and his family, and of Rakesh Asthana, against whom the CBI had filed a case, The Wire reported.
Eight of those phones were forensically confirmed by Amnesty International’s tech lab to have been successfully compromised by the military grade spyware that its Israeli vendor, NSO Group, says it sells only to “vetted governments”. Two other phones showed signs of targeting.
Along with Verma, the personal telephone numbers of his wife, daughter and son-in-law would eventually get placed on the list too, making it a total of 8 numbers from this one family.
The Wire report also added to the list of numbers at the same time as Verma were two other senior CBI officials, Asthana and A.K. Sharma.
The report said like the erstwhile Director, both men were added on to the database about an hour after their former boss. Asthana was also removed from the CBI on the night of October 23, 2018, and is currently head of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Sharma was divested that night of the crucial charge he held – head of the policy division – but remained in the CBI till January 2019, when he was transferred out. He retired from government service earlier this year.
The numbers of Asthana, Sharma, Verma and his family members figure in the leaked database for a short period. By the second week of February, 2019, by which time Verma had finally retired from government service, this entire cluster of persons ceased being of interest to the government agency which had added them to the list.
The midnight coup in the CBI came barely two days after Verma ordered the filing of a criminal case against Asthana, then special director in the Bureau, accusing him of corruption.
The report said Verma’s petition in the Supreme Court, filed a few days after his dismissal, sheds some light on the reason for his own sacking. “Certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government,” he said, adding: “Not all influence that is exercised by the political government would be found explicitly or in writing. More often than not, it is tacit, and requires considerable courage to withstand.”