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Thursday, September 16, 2021

ED questions Abhishek Banerjee, TMC MP says ready for probe

Abhishek Banerjee has been summoned for questioning in a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal pilferage scam in West Bengal.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 7, 2021 3:41:59 am
All India Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee during a press conference in Kolkata. (File photo via PTI)

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday questioned Lok Sabha MP and Trinamool Congress (TMC) national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee in connection with its money laundering probe into illegal mining and pilferage in Eastern Coalfield Ltd.

Banerjee, an MP from Diamond Harbour constituency and nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, arrived at the agency’s Jamnagar House office around 11 am. His questioning continued till late evening.

Outside the ED office, Banerjee told the media that he would cooperate with the investigations. “I am ready to face investigation…the agency officials are doing their work and I will cooperate with them,” PTI quoted him saying.

After his questioning was over, the TMC tweeted a video of Banerjee attacking the BJP before the media. “We will fight you and go to every such state where you have murdered democracy. Jo ukhadna hai ukhad lo (do whatever you can). BJP’s tyranny will be defeated. Let BJP put all its might, vigor, threat and resources. In the coming elections TMC will defeat the BJP. We will give our life but we will not bow down. We will not sell our spine to these cowards. We will defeat them in 2024,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee has earlier denied all allegations against him and his wife, Rujira, in the case. Speaking to reporters at Kolkata airport on Sunday, he had said that he would get himself hanged if any central agency can prove his involvement in any illegal transaction.

Sources said Banerjee was questioned about financial links between the alleged kingpin of the illegal coal mining scam, Anup Majee, and Rujira.

Sources said ED has found financial trails allegedly leading to a company promoted by Rujira. They said money was allegedly received by this entity in London and Thailand.

The agency is learnt to have also questioned Banerjee on Rs 6 crore cash received in a company, LTB Infraconsultancy Pvt Ltd, owned by TMC youth leader Vinay Mishra and his brother Vikas Mishra. Vikas has been arrested by the agency, while Vinay Mishra is said to be absconding, having acquired citizenship of another nation.

In June, the ED had attached a property in Kolkata jointly owned by three companies, which, it claimed, had allegedly received money from LTB for the property.

The agency had earlier claimed that Vinay Mishra is close of Banerjee, and that money was laundered in the case on behalf of some Trinamool “stalwarts”.

In April, ED had told a special court that Rujira and her sister were paid a “substantial amount” in London and Thailand by the key accused in the case. The agency had made the claim while seeking further custody of arrested accused Ashok Kumar Mishra, who was the inspector in-charge of Bankura police station in West Bengal’s Purulia district and is said to be a close associate of kingpin of the case Anup Majee, alias Lala.

The ED had claimed that during questioning, Ashok Mishra had allegedly said that this transaction was made at the behest of Vinay Mishra, and that the funds were sourced from Majee.

The agency has claimed that from the seized records and other digital evidence, it was found that Ashok Mishra allegedly received Rs 168 crore as proceeds of crime through illegal coal mining and pilferage in 109 days in 2020. It said records also show that Majee has allegedly generated Rs 1,352 crore through illegal coal mining in the last two years.

Citing the statement of a “close confidant” of Majee, the ED has said that Majee allegedly conducted his illegal mining business “smoothly” by “managing senior functionaries of [the ruling] political party of West Bengal through Ashok Kumar Mishra”. Citing the same statement, it said that “major fund is distributed to manage political stalwarts of the ruling party”.

On November 27 last year, CBI’s Kolkata Anti-Corruption Branch registered a case of corruption and criminal breach of trust regarding alleged illegal mining and pilferage of coal from leasehold area of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) in parts of Bengal.

ECL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Coal India Ltd, a PSU, and does mining in Bengal and Jharkhand.

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