ED sleuth with family on Pegasus List

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By Sushil Silvano, Our Special Correspondent. Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: Lucknow’s very own, Dr. Rajeshwar Singh, scion of an illustrious family of bureaucrats, presently Joint Director, Enforcement Directorate, is very much there in the select group being snooped upon by Pegasus Spyware.

On the leaked list are his phone numbers, as well as those of his wife and two sisters.

Rajeshwar Singh, who led several high-profile investigations conducted by his agency, was selected as a probable target for surveillance by an Indian client of the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, an investigation of leaked data by The Wire and its media partners on the Pegasus Project has revealed.

The database accessed by French non-profit Forbidden Stories and shared with the project’s media consortium, included not only two of Singh’s numbers but four numbers belonging to three women from his family, implying they too were likely targets.

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Rajeshwar originally belonged to the State Police Cadre of Uttar Pradesh Police. A direct recruit, who qualified for the PPS in his very first attempt, Rajeshwar has been winning laurels from Day One. Himself an expert in surveillance, both TechNet, and HUMINT, he shot to fame when posted in Lucknow in the early years of this Century when he held charge of three different wings simultaneously and acquitted himself well in all the three: Circle Officer, Gomtinagar, CO (Crime Branch) & CO( Traffic).

It was during this stint that he earned the sobriquet of Encounter Specialist and Cyber James Bond: 13 daylight encounters with hardened and reward-carrying criminals in 14 months.

While doing his duty to the best of his ability, he didn’t realize that he was stepping on the thorns of the then ruling party, the Samajwadi Party.

Allahabad’s Mafia Don, Atiq Ahmed, a darling legislator of Chief Minister Mulayam Singh, was wanted in criminal cases and the Allahabad High Court had issued a non-bailable warrant of arrest. However, no police officer could even think of going anywhere near him because of his known proximity to the CM.

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As CO(Crime), it devolved on him to carry out the highly dangerous High Court’s Warrant of Arrest. At the stroke of dawn, one day, Rajeshwar knocked on Atiq’s official residence to arrest him. The Mafia Don threatened him with suspension and worse if the CO dared to touch him and immediately started dailing the CM’s phone number.

Rajeshwar told him in a stern voice that he will carry out the Court’s order, come what may. And he did bundle Atiq in his vehicle and presented him in the High Court. This, naturally, greatly enraged the CM.

On Republic Day, Rajeshwar was decorated with the Gallantry Medal by the same CM in Lucknow’s Police Lines for killing an absconding demonic hired killer some time back.

The very same day that he received the Award, the same CM ordered his transfer from Lucknow to Allahabad. Police officers cannot operate in isolation, especially against Hon’ble Criminals- turned- Politicians in Uttar Pradesh.

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Luckily for him, he received a sanction to join The Enforcement Director on deputation as Assistant Director. This put him beyond the reach of the state government.

The highly-reinforced Prevention of Money Laundering Act had replaced the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, putting the onus of proof on the accused. Under FERA, the burden of proof was on the prosecution. Within a few months, this Encounter Expert mugged up the PMLA to such an extent that he could recite it backward: he soon emerged as ED’s PMLA expert.

Things reached such a head that he was simultaneously handling some of the biggest money-laundering cases in the country like Airtel- Maxis, Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda, Commonwealth Games chief Suresh Kalmadi, 2G Scam, Sahara group head SaharaSri, etc.

It was while pursuing the high-ticket Sahara case that he had to face extreme heat from several media arms and political and bureaucratic sympathizers of the Sahara group, including Union ministers like Chidambaram.

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The Supreme Court, however, stood firmly behind him and the SC- monitored probe could not be derailed. At one point, the SC observed: we are amazed that this young officer is still smiling and is alive.

For two- long years, his absorption in the ED was effectively obstructed. So long as Chidambaram remained in power, Rajeshwar was kept out. It was at the Supreme Court’s instance that the Government of India agreed to take him in with all due increments and promotions when power changed hands at the Centre.

The Government of India was given specific orders by the SC to carry out its orders and inform the court, leaving the Union government with no option at all.

Things took a dramatic turn when the ED subsequently raided and seized hundreds of offices and accounts of Karthik Chidambaram in connection with a money- laundering case.

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Chidambaram himself was arrested and sent to jail. In all his statements, Chidambaram held Rajeshwar responsible for his arrest and called it a revengeful action.

Such an officer, naturally, would attract any snooping agency. No wonder, Pegasus got interested in him. Now an IRS officer, Rajeshwar knows more than anybody else about the murky world of economic offenses.

His wife, Laxmi Singh, is an IPS Officer, presently holding charge as I-G, Lucknow Range.

His sisters, Abha and Meenakshi, both are IRS officers. Abha resigned from the IRS to become a top-notch lawyer in Mumbai. Y.P.Singh, her husband, too, was an IPS officer, He also resigned and is a lawyer-activist in Mumbai.

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All are outstanding professionals. Their father, Ran Bahadur Singh, too was an IPS officer, who was decorated with a Gallantry Medal.

The father-son duo of R B.Singh and Rajeshwar Singh is unique in India as they are perhaps the only father and son to be decorated with the prestigious Gallantry Medal, the highest Award in the Police.

Curated by Leen Hamade

Sushil Silvano

Mr. Sushil Silvano, our special correspondent is a celebrated veteran Journalist and Author and is currently based in Mumbai, India. He is the National Secretary of the Indian Journalists Union, an affiliate of the "International Federation of Journalists". He strongly believes in developing awareness through the power of Media and has chaired the Mumbai Chapter of Public Relations Council of India (PRCI) and is currently the Chairman of the Lucknow Chapter of PRCI.

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