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ED takes custody of Trinamool Congress spokesperson till January 31 in money laundering probe

The agency has alleged irregularities in crowd-funding campaigns by Saket Gokhale

January 25, 2023 03:30 pm | Updated 11:01 pm IST - New Delhi

File picture of TMC’s Saket Gokhale

File picture of TMC’s Saket Gokhale | Photo Credit: PTI

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday took Trinamool Congress spokesperson Saket Gokhale into custody till January 31 to record his statement in connection with the alleged irregularities in crowd-funding campaigns.

The ED’s money laundering probe is based on a case registered by the Cyber Crime police station in Ahmedabad City against Mr. Gokhale and others. He has denied all the allegations.

The State police had arrested him on December 29 last year, after which he was lodged in Sabarmati Jail under judicial custody. On Wednesday, the ED produced him before a designated special court in Ahmedabad that sent him to the agency’s custody till January 31.

In the police case, it is alleged that during 2019-21, Mr. Gokhale being an RTI activist and social worker had sought public assistance in raising funds for carrying out his activities. He allegedly prepared a bogus electronic document in the name of an institution as “OurDemocracy.in” by which he collected amounts from the complainant, Anand Nagindas Bihola, and other persons through one GiantTreeTech Private Limited. The funds so raised were diverted for personal use, as alleged.

According to the ED, Mr. Gokhale had collected over ₹80 lakh via “OurDemocracy.in” and “Razorpay” payment gateway. He ran three campaigns titled “ FightWithRTI”, “SaketversusModi” and “JusticeforSuhasGokhale” on online platforms. Besides, cash totalling ₹23.54 lakh was deposited to his bank account on various occasions. Thus, about ₹1.07 crore had been credited to his accounts through crowd funding and cash deposits, it said.

‘Breach of trust’

Alleging that the money was not used for the stated cause, the ED said it amounted to breach of trust of the donors.

In his statement to the ED, as submitted in the court, Mr. Gokhale said the motive for raising the funds was his sustenance and that the funds were used for the purpose stated in the campaigns. The agency said regarding the investment in share market, he said he had invested the funds of ₹2 crore through crowd funding to get returns, but he lost ₹30 lakh in the intra-day trading. The ED alleged that he had done speculative trading and that his claim of loss was being verified.

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