CBI raids Bengal justice minister in coal scam case

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The CBI alleges alleged illegally mined coal was sold on the black market.

New Delhi:

Amid nationwide uproar from opposition parties over the alleged misuse of central investigative agencies, the CBI, aided by a huge contingent of central paramilitary personnel, is today searching premises linked to West Bengal Minister Moloy Ghatak in the alleged coal theft case. The agency raided three houses of Mr Ghatak in Asansol in the Paschim Bardhaman district and one in the Lake Gardens district of Kolkata.

The CBI also conducted searches in four different locations in Kolkata in connection with the scam. Mr Ghatak, the MP for Asansol Uttar, once appeared before officers of the Directorate of Law Enforcement at his office in Delhi for questioning in the case.

He did, however, skip several other ED summonses in connection with the alleged scam.

The ED filed an anti-money laundering law complaint based on a November 2020 FIR registered by the CBI which alleged a multi-crore coal theft scam linked to the Eastern Coalfields mines Limited in the Kunustoria and Kajora areas of the state in and around Asansol. The CBI alleges that illegally mined coal worth thousands of crores has been sold on the black market for several years by a racketeer operating in the western parts of West Bengal where Eastern Coalfields Limited operates several mines.

Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamool’s national general secretary, was also questioned by the ED for eight hours last Friday in connection with the case. He said all these coal mines are guarded by the Central Industrial Security Force, an agency under the union’s interior ministry. He had launched a scathing attack on Interior Minister Amit Shah and the BJP shortly after his interrogation, accusing the Center of abusing central agencies for political purposes.

The ED has also summoned eight Indian Police Service officers stationed in West Bengal to New Delhi for questioning in the coal smuggling case. Mr Banerjee hit out at the Center saying that instead of questioning CISF officers, who are in charge of security there, state police officers were being harassed.

Several Trinamool leaders have been in the crosshairs of central agencies since the BJP suffered a beating in the West Bengal Assembly elections last year.

Former Minister of State Partha Chatterjee was arrested in July by the ED for his alleged involvement in the school recruitment scam, and the CBI arrested party leader Birbhum Anubrata Mondal in August in connection with the smuggling of cattle.

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