The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday arrested senior Indian Police Services officer SMH Mirza in the Narada tapes scandal, the first apprehension in the case since the footages surfaced in 2016, an agency official said.
Mirza was produced before a special CBI court in Kolkata, which remanded him in the central probe agency's custody till September 30.
"Earlier, too, we had grilled him (Mirza) on multiple occasions. Today, we arrested him following another round of questioning. He is one of the key links in Narada tapes scandal," the senior official said.
The IPS officer is among 13 people, including Trinamool Congress leaders and ministers, who have been summoned by the agency for questioning and voice sample test in connection with the probe into the scandal.
Mirza was the superintendent of police of Burdwan district when the sting operation was conducted by Mathew Samuels of the Narada News portal.
He was briefly suspended after the CBI in 2017 lodged a first information report against him in the case.
The suspension was later revoked, but Mirza has since been placed on 'compulsory waiting' without any posting.
In the footages, released ahead of 2016 West Bengal assembly polls, persons resembling senior Trinamool Congress leaders and Mirza are seen accepting money from the representatives of a fictitious company in return for favours.
The IPS officer was purportedly shown accepting Rs 5 lakh in cash from a businessman in one of the video clips.
According to CBI sources, his voice sample matched with that of the tape.
"Mirza was questioned eight times in the past but he was not really cooperative. We have ample evidence against him," a source in the agency said.
Thursday's arrest was welcomed by the opposition parties here, with the Bharatiya Janata Party claiming 'it's just the beginning'.
"Many more arrests are in the pipeline, just wait for a few days. Those who have looted public money, taken bribes would be put behind bars. No one would be spared," BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.
Opposition Congress and the Left Front also welcomed the arrest but wondered what took the CBI 3.5 years to make the first arrest.
Samuel who claimed to have conducted the sting operation in 2014 hoped others involved in the case would meet the same fate soon.
"The sting operation was conducted in 2014 but the tape (sting footage) was released in March, 2016. The CBI has arrested one of them. I am hoping others will also be arrested soon. I am really happy," he said.
The leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress, however, declined to make any comment, even as party secretary general and state education minister Partha Chatterjee said, "Everybody has to pay for his deeds and the arrest has nothing to do with the TMC."