The CBI raided the premises of West Bengal Justice Minister Moloy Ghatak on Wednesday as part of its investigation into the alleged theft of coal from the mines of Eastern Coalfields Ltd in Asansol, officials said.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) detectives, aided by a huge contingent of central paramilitary personnel, raided three houses from Ghatak to Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman district and two in Kolkata, they said.
The agency also carried out searches in one of the residences of close associates of Ghatak in the Alipore area of Kolkata and another in Diamond Harbor in the South 24 Parganas district.
As the CBI team questioned the Minister, who was present at his official quarters adjacent to Raj Bhavan in the Dalhousie area, another team searched his home in Lake Gardens.
The search continued until 4:30 p.m., officials said.
”We asked him how his name kept coming up in our investigation and what role he should play. But, he avoided questions calling the case sub-judicial,’ a CBI officer told PTI.
“The minister’s chartered accountant was also questioned about his properties,” the officer said. According to the officer, during the raid on Minister Asansol’s home, his family members’ mobile phones were confiscated and they were made to sit together in a room.
Searching for documents related to the case, if CBI detectives could not find the keys to the almirahs, they opened them, he added.
Areas around Ghatak residences were surrounded by central forces during the raids, the official said.
Claiming he would quit politics if the charges against him were proven, Ghatak said a “political witch hunt” was underway to slander him.
“I have one thing to say about the raid: it’s done to slander the party and me, which shouldn’t happen. This is a political witch hunt, and even the ED, the CBI and the press know at whose behest it is. Everyone knows who is responsible for the coal theft scam,” he told a press conference that evening.
“Besides the BJP leaders, if anyone from Asansol says that I am linked to the coal theft scam, then I will quit politics. If they can prove anything, I will quit politics,” he added. Ghatak said the CBI found nothing in the raid except Rs 14,000 in cash and “they did not seize the money, saying it was an insignificant amount”.
He said he didn’t have seven houses and all the money he had was accounted for.
The Law Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is also investigating the money trail in the coal theft scam, has also summoned Ghatak, asking him to appear before it in New Delhi on September 14.
”I haven’t received any notification. I saw a report that I was called to Delhi on September 14th. I have written to ED, asking them to call me before September 13th as the assembly session will start on September 14th. I have always cooperated with the polling agency, and if they summon me, I will surely go to Delhi,” the minister said. Ghatak, the MP for Asansol Uttar, had once appeared before the ED at its New Delhi office for questioning in connection with the case.
He, however, ignored several other ED summonses in relation to the multi-crore coal theft scam linked to the Eastern Coalfields Ltd mines in the Kunustoria and Kajora areas of the state.
Not having appeared before the ED, the minister pointed to the time of the convocations.
”Notice the dates on which I was called. The first time was four days before the municipal elections in Asansol. The next was six days before the Asansol Lok Sabha by-votes. I couldn’t run because I was busy during the election campaign,” he said. The BJP said that if the minister has done nothing wrong, he has nothing to worry about.
“If someone has done no wrong, why are they afraid to face ED and CBI?” BJP spokesman Samik Bhattacharya said.
The CBI had filed an FIR in November 2020 against alleged theft racketeer Anup Manjhi alias Lala, ECL Managing Directors Amit Kumar Dhar and ECL Security Chief Jayesh Chandra Rai Tanmay Das, Kunustoria Area Security Inspector Dhananjay Rai and Kajor Area Security. manager Debashish Mukherjee. The raids were carried out weeks after top TMC leaders Partha Chatterjee and Anubrata Mondal were arrested by central agencies.
Chatterjee, the former education minister, was arrested by the ED in July in the school jobs scam, while Mondal, who was the Birbhum district chairman of the TMC, was arrested by the CBI in the cattle smuggling case last month.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)