CBI searches West Bengal Law Minister’s residences in coal pilferage scam

The searches are being carried out at six locations, five in Kolkata and one in Asansol.

September 07, 2022 10:21 am | Updated 11:58 pm IST - Kolkata

West Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak addresses the media in Kolkata on September 7, 2022.

West Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak addresses the media in Kolkata on September 7, 2022. | Photo Credit: Debasish Bhaduri

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday conducted seaches at half-a-dozen properties and the residence of West Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak in connection with the investigation in the coal pilferage scam. Teams of CBI officials conducted searches at the Minister’s residence at Asansol in the State's Paschim Bardhaman district, and in Kolkata at Alipore, Lake Gardens, and near Raj Bhavan. According to the investigation agency, the search was carried out after the Minister failed to appear before the agency despite summons being issued to him several times.

“I have been summoned as a witness and I have cooperated with the investigation,” Mr. Ghatak told journalists later in the evening. The Minister said that his phone had been seized by officials and investigators found ₹14,000 from his residence, which they did not put on the seizure list. Responding to questions by journalists on why he was being summoned, the Minister said, “only attempt is to malign”. Mr. Ghatak also added that as the State’s Law Minister, there were a number of classified documents at his residence which the CBI went through. 

An MLA from Asansol Uttar, Mr. Ghatak is an influential Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader. The Central investigating agencies started an investigation into the coal pilferage scam in November 2020. The scam involves fraudulently misappropriating coal from the coal reserve of leasehold areas under the dominion of Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), and also from coal stock parked in Railway sidings for sale and supply. The ECL coal mines from where the coal is alleged to have been stolen are located in Kunustoria and Kajora areas in and around Asansol. The CBI had in July 2022 filed a charge-sheet against 41 persons in the scam, which includes public servants of ECL and a former youth leader of the TMC, Vinay Mishra. Mr. Mishra is absconding and agencies have issued a look out notice against him.

Along with the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also probing the coal scam. The ED and CBI have also questioned TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee in connection with the scam. On September 2, 2022 the ED had questioned Mr. Banerjee for over six hours in connection with the scam in Kolkata. The TMC leadership targeted Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday and accused him of “spinning propaganda against those who oppose his inept Government”.

“Meet #IndiasBiggestPappuAmitShah! Armed with his trusted Godi Media and the puppets in @dir_ed and CBI, he gloats. A Home Minister with no concern for citizens or the Nation, he spends his days spinning propaganda against those who oppose his inept Government,” the TMC tweeted from its official handle. Mr. Banerjee and the TMC have launched a fresh attack against the Home Minister after September 2.

Anubrata’s bail rejected

In another development, a court in Asansol rejected the bail petition of TMC leader Anubrata Mondal in connection with the cross-border cattle smuggling scam. Mr. Mondal, the TMC district president of Birbhum, has been remanded to 14 days of judicial custody. The TMC leader was arrested by the CBI on August 11 in connection with the cross-border cattle smuggling scam.

Prior to Mr. Mondal’s arrest, the ED arrested former Minister Partha Chatterjee and his aide Arpita Mukherjee in the School Service Commission Recruitment scam. Cash valuing ₹50 crore was seized from the properties of the former Minister’s aide.

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