Updated: July 23, 2020 2:58:54 am
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday conducted nationwide raids, including at properties of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s brother Agrasen, in connection with an alleged fertiliser scam.
The agency conducted raids at 13 places in Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat and Delhi, sources said. In Jodhpur, ED officials searched multiple properties of Gehlot’s company, Anupam Krishi.
The scam concerns alleged illegal export of Muriate of Potash (MoP), which is imported by Indian Potash Limited (IPL) and distributed to farmers, through companies, at subsidised rates. According to officials, between 2007 and 2009, Agrasen, who was an authorised dealer for IPL, bought MoP at subsidised rates and instead of distributing to farmers, allegedly sold it to a few companies.
These companies, ED says, subsequently exported it to Malaysia and Singapore in the guise of industrial salt.
MoP is listed among items banned for export. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had unearthed the scam in 2012-13.
A source said Agrasen was not present at the premises when the raids were conducted.
Calling the development a part of the Centre’s “raid raj”, Congress’s communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala told the media in Jaipur, “A frustrated government sent ED at the home of CM Gehlot’s elder brother…. His only fault is that he is the elder brother of Ashok Gehlot. He has nothing to do with politics but raids were conducted…”
Agrasen is the sixth person to be investigated or questioned by central agencies since Rajasthan’s political crisis began.
About the alleged scam, a source said one Shantilal Mali, of Ramdev Chemicals and Sandeep Suppliers, based in Sirohi, had procured MoP from Agrasen’s company, which was an authorised dealer. Mali the allegedly arranged fake bills of feldspar powder and salt from Kolkata-based Classic Sales Agency and Ashoka Salt Refinery Industries, based in Rajasthan’s Falodi. The MoP was camouflaged as feldspar powder or salt and exported — it never reached the farmers it was intended for, the agency says.
Agrasen was accused of being part of a syndicate and receiving an amount as commission. The office of the Commissioner of Customs Kandla, Gujarat, had imposed a penalty of Rs 5.45 crore on Anupam Krishi.
ED sources said Agrasen and his company were eventually imposed a penalty of Rs 60 crore in connection with the case. According to the agency, over 35,000 metric tonnes of MoP – worth nearly Rs 130 crore — was diverted in all.
The ED registered a case of money laundering after the Customs Department filed a chargesheet in the case on July 13, the day Income Tax Department raided three Rajasthan-based business groups said to be close to CM Ashok Gehlot.
Sources close to Agrasen told The Indian Express that the law was not violated by Anupam Krishi but by companies which bought MoP from it, and that Agrasen had no knowledge of the export. “He is a compost seed wholesaler and has clearing and forwarding business. He is not into export; neither does he have an export licence,” a source said.
“Moreover, proceedings in the matter were stayed in 2017 by the Ahmedabad Customs Tribunal after Gehlot had filed a stay application and submitted Rs 11 lakh. A fresh case was registered on July 17 just to harass the family,” the source said.
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