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Fertiliser exports scam | CBI searches premises of Rajasthan CM’s brother and others

Agrasain Gehlot’s farm house in Jodhpur under raid by ED officials on July 22, 2020. File.

Agrasain Gehlot’s farm house in Jodhpur under raid by ED officials on July 22, 2020. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday conducted searches at multiple locations, including the premises of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s brother Agrasain Gehlot, in connection with an alleged fertiliser exports scam that caused a loss of ₹52.80 crore to the exchequer.

“The searches have been carried out in Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal, against 15 accused persons. They include private companies and its directors or proprietors,” said a CBI official. Unknown officials of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, and Indian Potash Limited (IPL) are also under the scanner.

The CBI had earlier instituted a preliminary enquiry during which it found that Muriate of Potash (MOP), a restricted item, could be exported only with the prior permission of the Central government. The imported MOP is supplied by the IPL to farmers through its authorised dealers at subsidised rates, and the subsidy is claimed from the government.

The agency came across evidence that MOP had allegedly been exported under the guise of feldspar powder/industrial salt to overseas buyers. In order to conceal the transaction, fictitious purchases of feldspar powder/industrial salt through dealers in Rajasthan and Kolkata were shown by the accused.

During 2007-09, they conspired with unknown officials of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, and IPL to buy and export 24,003 metric tonne of MoP by declaring the consignments as that of industrial salt/feldspar powder.

In 2020, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had carried out searches in the same matter, following the legal action initiated by the Customs Department. Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the ED also recorded Mr. Agrasain Gehlot’s statement last year. It was alleged that he – through his Jodhpur-based company Anupam Krishi – exported MOP at higher rates to countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam.

Questioning the timing of the CBI probes against the Rajasthan Chief Minister’s brother, the Congress said the Centre is trying to punish Ashok Gehlot for being at the forefront of protests against the misuse of central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to target Opposition leaders.

“This is vendetta politics beyond all bounds. @ashokgehlot51 was at the forefront of the protests in Delhi over the past three days, and this is Modi Govt’s brazen response! We will not be silenced!” tweeted party’s communication chief Jairam Ramesh.

Expressing his solidarity, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Harassment of Opposition leaders who stand up and speak truth to power has become the hallmark of the BJP govt. I stand in solidarity with @ashokgehlot51 ji and his family against this politics of vendetta. Our fight will go on”.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 9:23:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/fertiliser-exports-scam-cbi-searches-premises-of-rajasthan-cms-brother-and-others/article65536070.ece