Setting the stage for another bitter showdown between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal, the CBI Monday booked 12 Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, including MPs and state ministers, and an IPS officer and unidentified “others” for alleged corruption in the Narada ‘sting’ case involving visuals of money changing hands.
Maintaining that its inquiry revealed “prima facie material for registration of a regular case”, the CBI said an FIR had been lodged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code section 120B on criminal conspiracy.
TMC leaders booked by the CBI include Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy, Lok Sabha MPs Saugata Roy, Aparupa Poddar, Sultan Ahmed, Prasun Banerjee and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.
Others named are West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari, Environment Minister Sovan Chatterjee, Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Minister Subrata Mukherjee, former Minister Madan Mitra, MLA Iqbal Ahmed and IPS officer SMH Mirza.
The FIR also mentioned “unknown persons” and CBI officials claimed there were “many others who were a part of the conspiracy but were not shown in the footage’’.
The Narada News tapes, released ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal, showed TMC leaders allegedly receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company for future favours.
Last month, the Calcutta High Court ordered a CBI probe but this was challenged by the state government. The Supreme Court gave the CBI a month to conduct a preliminary enquiry and see if there was need for an FIR.
CBI officials said they had examined video clips containing footage of TMC leaders and a Superintendent of Police who featured in the ‘sting’ operation.
Mathew Samuel of Narada News had told the court that the ‘sting’ recording was done on an iPhone, transferred to a laptop and then stored in a pen drive. A committee had taken possession of all devices after the Calcutta High Court ordered a CBI probe.
In the first set of tapes released by Narada News, the leaders were shown accepting wads of cash. It was in the second set, mostly featuring Firhad Hakim, in which favours were promised. Hakim was filmed saying there were “lots of infrastructure projects coming up in West Bengal… especially roads.’’ He also said that the quality of MLAs in the TMC had dropped and all that investors needed to do was apply for projects, and that he would ensure these were passed.
Although he declined comment when the tapes were released, Hakim, after the 2016 elections, said of the Narada tapes: “It was completely false, I have not done anything unethical throughout my life… it is a political conspiracy, they were unable to fight with us on a political agenda, they indulged in all these things.’’
Mirza, the IPS officer in the tapes, was the former SP of Burdwan. He was taped saying he had access to top TMC leaders and could get work done. In another instalment of the ‘sting’ operation, Samuel of Narada News is taken to Minister Subrata Mukherjee by MLA Iqbal Ahmed.