Thursday, August 18, 2022

West Bengal minister arrested for school jobs scam

Hospitalised after arrest by ED in school jobs scam

West Bengal Industry and Commerce Minister Partha Chatterjee, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday morning in connection with the school jobs scam, was hospitalised in the evening after he fell ill.
The minister was arrested following a marathon 26-hour-long grilling at his house, an ED official said. The Trinamool Congress said that the party and the government will take action against arrested senior minister Partha Chatterjee if he is proven guilty of the scam.
In a press conference held around nine hours after Chatterjee’s arrest, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh also made it clear that presently the party would not remove him as a cabinet minister or the secretary general of the Trinamool Congress.
After arresting Chatterjee, the central agency produced him in a local court that sent to ED custody for two days. His lawyer argued in the court that since no unaccounted money and documents have been found at his residential premises but at the house of a person not connected with TMC or the government, he should be granted bail, which the ED lawyers of the directorate opposed.
His counsel told reporters that as it was a Saturday, he would be again produced before the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court on Monday.
In the evening, Chatterjee who has several health issues was admitted to the ICCU of the state-run SSKM Hospital after he complained of uneasiness.
Several tests including ECG were conducted on the TMC secretary general and his condition is stable, an official of the hospital said. The TMC secretary general was the state education minister when the alleged irregularities took place.
ED also arrested Arpita Mukherjee, believed to be Chatterjee’s close aide, from whose flat around Rs 21 crore in cash was seized during a raid on Friday, the agency official said. The TMC spokesperson said that the party has no relation with her or the money discovered from her flat.
Chatterjee, who was the state education minister from 2014 to 2021, was grilled by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in April and May this year in connection with the scam.
The TMC, which has maintained a stoic silence on the issue throughout the day, held a press conference in the evening.
“We have full faith in the judiciary. If Partha Chatterjee is pronounced guilty by the court, then the party and the government will take action against him,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
Speaker Biman Banerjee said that the ED must inform the speaker before arresting a member of the assembly.
“The ED or CBI, while arresting any MP or MLA, has to inform the speaker of the Lok Sabha or the state assembly. This is the constitutional norm. But I have not received any communication from the ED about Chatterjee’s arrest,” he said.
The opposition BJP went hammer and tongs over the development and demanded a reply from the chief minister.
The arrest reflects the “Bengal model of development” practised by TMC leaders, BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar claimed.
The BJP youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, staged protest rallies across the state against the scam.
Meanwhile, a group of protestors, who have been on a sit-in demonstration for more than 450 days at the Gandhi statue at Mayo Road in the city, welcomed the arrest and hoped that justice would be delivered soon.

Rs 20 crore cash seized by ED from the premises of an aide of Partha Chatterjee. (PTI)

Sad that ‘mountain of cash’ found in land of Vivekananda, Vidyasagar: Pradhan

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Saturday regretted that “a mountain of currency notes” has now been discovered in a house in West Bengal, the land of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar and Swami Vivekananda. He termed the reported seizure of cash in crores of rupees from the home of a close associate of West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee as a “matter of shame”. Chatterjee, the industry and state parliamentary affairs minister, was arrested by the ED on Saturday in connection with its investigation into the alleged school jobs scam.
“A mountain of currency notes, to the tune of Rs 21 crore, has been found at someone’s home. We must condemn the corrupt practice, which is shameful on the holy soil of Bengal, the land of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar and Swami Vivekananda, and also the divine land of worshippers of Saraswati, Goddess of learning. Strictest action needs to be taken against the perpetrators,” Pradhan said.
He was present at a programme of East-West Metro in Sealdah station here.
Asked about the arrest of Chatterjee on the sidelines of the event, Pradhan declined to take the name of the political leader in the government programme but said “the discovery of such a huge amount of cash is a matter of shame”.
“I am from Odisha. We share a rich cultural heritage. So the development hurts,” he added. The ED had on Friday carried out simultaneous raids at the houses of around a dozen people in connection with the probe into the alleged irregularities in teacher recruitment in the state and seized the accounted cash.
Chatterjee was the state education minister when the alleged school jobs scam took place. TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh, however, said the party had nothing to do with the “seizure of cash in someone’s residence who is not associated with us”.
“We are keeping a close watch on the situation. We will come out with a statement at an appropriate time,” Ghosh said on July 22. Referring to the TMC spokesperson’s comment, Pradhan said, “The party has stated that it is not associated with it (the discovery of cash). This reminds me of a Bengali phrase thakur ghore ke ami kala khaina (a guilty mind is always suspicious).”

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