The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday raided the residence of West Bengal Law minister Moloy Ghatak in connection with its ongoing probe into the coal smuggling scam. According to The Indian Express, the CBI raids are linked to Ghatak’s alleged involvement in a case of coal smuggling from a coalfield in the state.
According to the report, six CBI officers from Kolkata arrived at Ghatak’s residence Wednesday morning. CRPF personnel have also been deployed at the minister’s residence. Raids are currently underway in the case at seven other locations across the state, including Asansol and Kolkata.
News agency PTI reported that CBI searches are underway at the residence of one of Ghatak’s close associates in Kolkata’s Alipore area and another in Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas district.
The CBI team is also questioning the minister, who was present at his official quarters adjacent to Raj Bhavan in the city’s Dalhousie area, while another team continued searches at his Lake Gardens home. “As his name has surfaced in the coal smuggling scam, we need to find out what was his role in it. We have evidence of Ghatak’s involvement in the scam,” a CBI officer told PTI, adding that the mobile phones of his family members have also been taken away during the raids and made to sit together in a room.
Ghatak, the TMC MLA from Asansol Uttar, has previously appeared once for questioning before the Enforcement Directorate at its Delhi office. He has, however, skipped successive summonses of the ED in connection with the multi-crore coal pilferage scam related to the Eastern Coalfields Ltd mines in the state’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas.
With the raids today, Ghatak joins the list of Trinamool Congress leaders to fall under the radar of central agencies on corruption charges. The CBI action also comes as a fresh blow to Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee whose government is still recovering from the impact of the teachers’ recruitment scam that saw the arrest of minister Partha Chatterjee.
The coal smuggling case has also put several TMC leaders, including the party’s national general secretary and Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, under the scanner. Abhishek Banerjee has already faced several rounds of questioning by the ED in connection with its probe into the case.
The CBI registered a case in connection with the coal smuggling scam in November 2020, alleging multi-crore coal pilferage in Eastern Coalfields mines in West Bengal’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas. The FIR named Anup Manjhi alias Lala as the alleged kingpin, besides ECL general managers Amit Kumar Dhar and Jayesh Chandra Rai, ECL security chief Tanmay Das, Kunustoria area security inspector Dhananjay Rai and Kajor area security in-charge Debashish Mukherjee as accused.
Later, the ED lodged a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, based on the November 2020 FIR registered by the CBI. The ED charge sheet filed before a special court in Delhi in August last year named TMC leader and businessman Vinay Mishra’s brother, Vikas, and former officer-in-charge of Bankura police station, Ashok Mishra, as prime accused.