The Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid at the house of Ms. Arpita Mukherjee’s, ministerial aide to Mr. Partha Chatterjee at Diamond City Complex in south Kolkata on July 22, has seen officials allegedly recovering a ‘treasure trove’ of cash, gold bars amounting to INR 50 crore, along with supporting documents.
The alleged irregularities pertain to recruitment of staff and teachers in government-sponsored and aided schools on recommendations of the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC).
Mr. Chatterjee served as the education minister, when the alleged irregularities are said to have occurred.
The controversy has escalated to the extent that leaders within Mr. Chatterjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) are demanding he be sacked.
The ED sought the RBI’s regional office help to ferry the haul, according to reports, totaling INR 21.20 crore in INR 500 and INR 2,000 denominations. Foreign currencies worth INR 60 lakh were also reportedly recovered, along with gold ornaments worth INR 90 lakh.
Numerous high-end smartphones, sale deeds of eight flats and documents of multiple high-end passenger vehicles were also recovered reportedly.
The entire haul has been taken to the ED’s office at CGO complex in Salt Lake, Kolkata.
Apart from the ‘mountain’ of valuables, ED officials are also said to have recovered two diaries — a black executive diary and one pocket diary. The black executive diary reportedly was entitled ‘Department of Education-Government of West Bengal.’
Reports say both diaries are allegedly full of ‘coded messages.’
ED sources were quoted by news agencies as saying that the handwriting in the diaries does not match those of either Chatterjee or Mukherjee.
ED officials suspect that the assets recovered might be a small portion of the actual haul, as documents seized in the raids hint at significant amount of large cash transfers.
The case is being probed by the CBI on the orders of the Calcutta High Court, both Mr. Chatterjee and Ms. Mukherjee are currently in custody.
ED sources as saying that Arpita Mukherjee has allegedly ‘confessed in custody’ that she was ‘forced’ by Mr. Chatterjee to allow her properties to be used.
The West Bengal government has now removed Partha Chatterjee, from his duties as Minister in Charge of his Departments with effect from 28 July. The state government has issued a notice in this regard, after many calls from within the TMC party for Mr. Chatterjee’s removal.
Earlier in the day, there were speculations that Chatterjee could be dropped from the state cabinet.
In the meantime, an emergency cabinet meeting has been called by the TMC in the evening to discuss the matter.
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