Friday, July 1, 2022

ED issues fresh summons to Abhishek Banerjee, wife in coal scam case

The Enforcement Directorate has issued fresh summons to TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee and his wife for questioning in a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal, officials said on Thursday.
Banerjee, nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the national general secretary of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), and his wife Rujira Banerjee have been asked to depose before the investigation officer here next week, they said.
While the MP has been asked to appear on March 21, his wife has been asked to depose the next day.
The fresh summons has come in the backdrop of the Delhi High Court order dated March 11 where the court dismissed a plea by the couple challenging these notices issued to them on September 10 last year.
The summons issued in September, 2021, directed them to appear before the ED in the national capital.
The couple had sought the high court’s intervention, saying they should not be asked by the federal agency to appear in Delhi since they were residents of West Bengal.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED during this hearing, had opposed the couple’s plea challenging the summons issued to them, saying the jurisdiction of ED probe was “not confined to one area, police station or State” as the offences under the PMLA often have “cross border implications”.
Senior advocate and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Banerjee couple, had argued that the investigating agency has failed to show the provision of law granting it specific power to summon the petitioners to the national capital.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju objected to the petitioners’ claim that they were residents of Kolkata and stated that there was admittedly a Delhi address as Abhishek Banerjee is a Member of Parliament and must be staying here when the Parliament is in session.
Banerjee, the TMC MP from Diamond Harbour, has once been questioned by the ED in this case in September last year at an agency office in the national capital.
Rujira Banerjee was also issued the notice for questioning but she did not appear citing the spread of COVID-19.
The ED lodged a case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on a November 2020 FIR registered by the CBI that alleged a multi-crore coal pilferage scam related to Eastern Coalfields Limited mines in the state’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas in and around Asansol.
Local coal operative Anup Majhi alias Lala is alleged to be the prime suspect in the case.
The ED had claimed that the 34-year-old TMC parliamentarian was a beneficiary of funds obtained from this illegal trade. He has denied all charges.


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