The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed its first chargesheet in the multi-crore coal smuggling case implicating for now 41 persons that include some top Eastern Coal Fields Limited (ECL) officials, and a former State-level Trinamool Congress leader.
The names of TMC national general secretary and Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Narula Banerjee however do not figure in the chargesheet. The duo have been questioned by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate on several occasions in the case.
The 41 individuals include Anup Maji alias Lala a local businessman the main mastermind who has allegedly amassed wealth to the tune of several hundred crore, Vinay Mishra a former Bengal youth TMC vice-president --- who enjoyed an elaborate police protection before fleeing the country --- and his brother Vikash Mishra, presently in CBI custody.
Besides alerting the Interpol CBI has already announced a cash award of Rs 1 lakh for providing information about Vinay Mishra who is believed to be in hiding in the island country of Vaniatu. Mishra formerly known to be close to Banerjee is known to have surrendered his Indian citizenship and acquired the one of his new country.
A bevy of former top ECL officials including general managers, Agents and managers have also been named in the chargesheet. The senior officials have been named both as facilitators and beneficiaries in the case. At least seven of them were arrested as late as last week. A number of serving and retired police officials have been named in the chargesheet. This apart, about 22 companies involved in coal trade have also been named in the document.
Both coal and cattle smuggling turned out to be high-profile cases after names of some senior politicians including Banerjee and Bengal minister Maloy Ghatak and an MLA from Purulia bobbed up during investigations.
Both Abhishek Banerjee who is also the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Rujira his wife have repeatedly been questioned by the ED and CBI in relation to the case. According to sources the couple have been asked questions regarding a transaction in a bank account in Thailand repeatedly mentioned by Bengal Opposition Leader Suvendu Adhikari in his speeches.During interrogation Rujira has allegedly been asked about an alleged transfer of heavy amounts to her account by principal mastermind Lala. She has however denied the knowledge of such transfer. Her husband, the TMC MP from Diamond Harbour --- who has also been questioned about the transactions --- has however alleged political vendetta saying the BJP Government was unleashing the central agencies behind him because the saffron party failed to win Bengal in 2021 Assembly elections.
“ECL and its coal mines belong to the Centre, the mines are guarded by the CISF and the borders through which they are smuggled out are also guarded by the BSF … so how can you blame the State government and its police … it is clearly and act of vendetta and failing to win Bengal in 201 the BJP Government is trying to malign and harass us with the help of Agencies as they have been doing to the opposition parties all over the country … but we will never bow down before them,” said Banerjee in an earlier statement. Recently Bengal Minister Maloy Ghatak was also summoned to Delhi along with a Purulia TMC MLA in connection with the coal smuggling case. The duo however failed to appear before the ED office. Ghatak is from Asansol from where the coal smuggling took place.