The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday conducted raids in three locations in and around Kolkata and again recovered large stacks of cash from a flat linked to Arpita Mukherjee, considered a close associate of arrested West Bengal Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee.
The unaccounted money was found five days after the agency seized more than Rs 21 crore in cash, besides jewellery and foreign exchange from another flat of Mukherjee, who was also arrested on July 23.
The demand for dismissal of Chatterjee from the cabinet grew louder from within the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition parties.
The federal anti-money laundering agency, probing the money trail of the teacher recruitment scam, also grilled TMC MLA Manik Bhattacharya, a former president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.
Since this morning, ED officials conducted coordinated raids at various properties at Rajdanga in south Kolkata and Belgharia in the northern fringes of the city, which were reportedly owned by Mukherjee.
During questioning, she informed the ED about those properties.
ED sleuths had to break open a door to get into two flats in Belgharia’s Rathtala locality as the keys to open them could not be spotted, an official said.
“We have found a good amount of money from one of the flats in a housing complex. We have brought three note counting machines to know the exact amount,” an official told PTI when contacted.
Several “vital” documents were also found in the flats during a search, the official said. Asked about the questioning of the minister and Mukherjee, the official said that though she has been “cooperative throughout”, Chatterjee is not.
This is for the second time since July 22 that huge cash has been recovered in connection with the investigation. The ED also questioned Bhattacharya at its office in CGO Complex in Salt Lake area.
His residential premise was searched by ED officials on July 22, after which he was asked to depose.
Meanwhile, the calls for dismissal of Chatterjee from the state cabinet grew louder as Leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari met Governor La Ganesan at the Raj Bhavan here, seeking that Chatterjee, who holds the industry, commerce and parliamentary affairs portfolios, be removed as minister.
“I had requested the governor to remove Partha Chatterjee as a minister. He is presently in ED custody in a corruption case,” he said. Fuelling speculations about Chatterjee’s future as a cabinet minister, Trinamool Congress spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said it has to be seen how the senior TMC leader sheds the tag of being “influential” without quitting as a minister of several departments. “What he will do is up to him. He holds several portfolios as a cabinet minister. How he will shed the tag of being an influential person is for him to answer.,” he said.
The ED has described Chatterjee in the Calcutta High Court as an “influential person”. Chatterjee earlier in the day countered repeated queries by the media on whether he would resign by retorting why he should do so. Hours after Chatterjee’s arrest on July 23, Ghosh had told reporters that presently the party would not remove him as a cabinet minister or the secretary general of the TMC.
Amid speculations over his political future, Chatterjee’s official car, used by him for over 15 years, was on Tuesday deposited in the West Bengal Assembly.
The TMC mouthpiece “Jago Bangla” (Wake up, Bengal), of which he is the Editor, has also stopped naming Chatterjee either as a minister or the party’s secretary general.
The CBI, as directed by the Calcutta High Court, is looking into the alleged irregularities committed in the recruitment of Group-C and D staff as well as teachers in government-sponsored and –aided schools on recommendations of the West Bengal School Service Commission. The ED is tracking the money trail in the scam.
Chatterjee was the education minister when the alleged irregularities took place.
Partha Chatterjee sacked from cabinet
The West Bengal government on Thursday removed Partha Chatterjee, who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a school jobs scam, from the ministry with immediate effect.
“Partha Chatterjee, minister in charge, department of industry, commerce and enterprises, department of information technology and electronics, department of parliamentary affairs and department of public enterprises and industrial reconstruction, is hereby relieved of his duties as MIC of the aforesaid department with immediate effect,” an official order said. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later said at a government event here that she will look after the portfolios held by Chatterjee for the time being. The ED had arrested Chatterjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress secretary-general, on July 23 in connection with its investigation into alleged irregularities in the recruitment drives by the School Service Commission (SSC).
The central agency has also arrested Chatterjee’s close associate Arpita Mukherjee, and seized crores of rupees from her houses in different parts of the city.