- TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee on Monday appeared before the ED.
- He was summoned for a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal.
- His role and links with other accused are being investigated.
TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee on Monday appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) here for questioning in a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal. The 34-year-old Trinamool Congress (TMC) national general secretary was seen entering the new office of the central probe agency in central Delhi around 11 am. Officials said Abhishek Banerjee’s statement will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and he is expected to be confronted with some “evidences” gathered by investigators in the case.
His role and links with other accused are being investigated, they said. The Diamond Harbour MP was once questioned in this case in September last year. Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, told reporters at the Kolkata airport on Sunday that the BJP government at the Centre is using the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for its political interests as it was unable to accept the setback in the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls.
His wife Rujira also left with him for Delhi and is expected to be examined by the agency in the same case on Tuesday. The ED summons against the two came after the Delhi High Court on March 11 dismissed a plea by the couple challenging the agency notices asking them to appear in the national capital instead of Kolkata.
The agency lodged the case under the provisions of the PMLA based on a November 2020 FIR registered by the CBI that alleged a multi-crore coal pilferage scam related to Eastern Coalfields Limited mines in the state’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas in and around Asansol. Local coal operator Anup Majhi alias Lala is alleged to be the prime suspect in the case.
The ED had claimed that the parliamentarian was a beneficiary of funds obtained from this illegal trade. It has arrested two people in this case till now. One of them is Vikas Mishra, the brother of TMC youth wing leader Vinay Mishra, who is stated to have left the country sometime back and renounced his Indian citizenship.
The second person arrested in the case is the former Inspector in-charge of Bankura police station Ashok Kumar Mishra. The ED had earlier claimed that the Mishra brothers received “proceeds of crime worth Rs 730 crore on behalf of some influential persons and for themselves” in this case involving an estimated amount of Rs 1,352 crore.
A “deep system” of political patronage and a “well-oiled” machinery was used to brazenly carry out certain unlawful coal mining in West Bengal, the ED has claimed before a court while seeking the remand of Inspector Mishra in April last year. A charge sheet was also filed by the ED in May.
Quoting the recorded statement of an unidentified “close associate” of Majhi, the ED had earlier alleged that he had been running his “illegal coal mining business smoothly by managing senior functionaries of a political party of West Bengal through Inspector Mishra.”
The statement of this unidentified “witness” furnished by the ED in the remand note stated that “it is a known fact that Vinay Mishra collected money from illegal coal mining of Majhi and his associates for his closely associated political boss in the present ruling party; that Vinay Mishra is the youth leader of TMC and he is very close to Abhishek Banerjee and that he (Vinay Mishra) is the eyes and ears of Abhishek Banerjee.”
The agency had claimed that documents seized by it show that “Majhi assisted in transferring substantial funds derived from the proceeds of crime to Shri Abhishek Banerjee’s close relatives (wife and sister-in-law) at London and Thailand”.
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