The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday continued the raids on the residential premises of Arpita Mukherjee, a “close associate” of West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee, in connection with an alleged teacher recruitment scam in the state.
Partha Chatterjee was arrested on Saturday morning, a day after the raids began. The ED started the raids on Friday where it seized cash amounting to approximately Rs 21 crore at Arpita Mukherjee’s premise, sources said.
Moreover, documents pertaining to around 10 properties, gold and diamond ornaments worth about Rs 50 lakh were also recovered from Arpita Mukherjee’s house, they added.
Partha Chatterjee will be produced before the Bankshall Court in Kolkata. Arpita Mukherjee is also likely to be produced before the court after she is arrested.
Apart from this, the ED raided 11 locations, including the premises of Minister of State for Education Paresh C Adhikary, LA and ex-president of West Bengal Board of Primary Education Manik Bhattacharya, and others.
“The said amount is suspected to be proceeds of crime of the said SSC scam,” the federal probe agency said in a statement. The search teams took the help of bank officials for counting cash through machines.
More than 20 mobile phones have also been seized during the raids at the premises of Arpita, however, the purpose and use of recovered phones are being ascertained, the ED said.
Sources told News18 that several notes were found in an envelop of West Bengal education ministry with national emblem printed on them.
The others who were raided include PK Bandopadhyay, OSD to Partha Chatterjee when he was the state education minister earlier, his then personal secretary Sukanta Acharjee, Chandan Mondal alias Ranjan, a “tout” who allegedly used to take money on the promise of giving school teacher jobs, Kalyanmay Bhattacharya, son-in-law of Partha Bhattacharya; Krishna C Adhikary, and Dr SP Sinha, advisor of the West Bengal Central School Service Commission – convenor of the five-member committee.
Another person, Monalisa Das, a professor of Bengali with Kazi Nazrul University, is also under the ED radar. She is also suspected to have made extravagant properties and is reportedly having links with Partha Chatterjee.
Kalyanmoy Ganguly, the ex-president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education; Saumitra Sarkar, ex-president of the West Bengal Central School Service Commission; and Alok Kumar Sarkar, the deputy director of the School Education Department were also raided.
“A number of incriminating documents, records, details of dubious companies, electronic devices, foreign currency and gold have been recovered from the premises of persons linked to the scam,” the agency said.
The ED’s money-laundering case stems from an FIR by the CBI, which was first directed by the Calcutta High Court to investigate the alleged scam in the recruitment of Group ‘C’ and ‘D’ staff, assistant teachers of classes 11 and 11 and primary teachers.
At least seven to eight ED personnel arrived at Partha Chatterjee’s Naktala residence in south Kolkata around 8:30 am and carried out searches till 11 am with CRPF personnel keeping guard outside, a source said, adding that another team of officials visited Paresh Adhikari’s home at Mekhliganj in the Coochbehar district and spoke to his family members.
Chatterjee held the education portfolio when the alleged scam was reportedly pulled off. He was interrogated by the CBI twice, once on April 26 and then on May 18. Adhikari, the minister of state for education, had also been grilled by the CBI with his daughter losing her job as a school teacher.
The raids have put a spotlight on the ruling Trinamool Congress government, and has turned out to be a huge embarrassment for them. The opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, is already out attacking chief minister Mamata Banerjee. “Yeh toh bas trailer hai, picture abhi baaki hai (This is just a trailer, the movie is yet to come),” tweeted senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari as he described the raids.
The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha has planned protests in every district of Bengal on Saturday.
#BJYM Bengal will be protesting against #SSC recruitment scam at every district of Bengal today.
Future of lakhs of youth are ruined coz of #SSCscam where merit lost to illicit cash some of which has been recovered by ED today from TMC minister Partha Chatterjee’s aide’s house. pic.twitter.com/HbWo0fMyNN— Dr.Indranil Khan ডাঃ ইন্দ্রনীল খাঁন (@IndranilKhan) July 22, 2022
Kunal Ghosh, general secretary of the ’embarrassed’ TMC, said that the money recovered by ED has nothing to do with his party. “Those who are named in this investigation, it is their responsibility to answer the questions related to them or their lawyers. Why is there a campaign in the name of the party. TMC is closely watching the developments and will give its reaction at the right time,” Ghosh tweeted.
Focusing on maintaining distance from the SSC scam controversy, the Trinamool Congress may ask Partha Chatterjee to step down amid pressure from the opposition as he’s not only a minister but also the secretary general of the party.
CPIM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “If close aide has so much of money, imagine the wealth the big players may have.” Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhury called TMC leaders “thieves”.