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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Chandigarh scam: ED attaches 21 assets of CM’s deputy secretary | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday said it has attached Rs 152 crore worth of assets in Chhattisgarh’s coal levy scam that includes at least 21 benami properties of Saumya Chaurasia, the chief minister’s deputy secretary, who is currently in ED custody.
“Investigation has revealed that an amount of at least Rs 540 crore has been extorted in the last two years. Thousands of hand-written diary entries have been analysed, corroborating them with evidence gathered in the form of bank account details, seized WhatsApp chats and recording of statements of the accused,” the ED said.
The anti-money laundering agency has said that it has so far questioned more than 100 persons linked to the coal levy scam, corroborating details of the money trail as revealed from a diary seized from the main accused in the extortion racket.

“This kind of systemic extortion was not possible without the knowledge and active participation of the state machinery. The fact that it ran uninterrupted without a single FIR and collected around Rs 500 crore in two years clearly indicates that all the accused persons were acting in a concerted manner at the instructions of person(s) at the highest level, having command and control over the state machinery. The ED is investigating the entire gamut of transactions in relation to the extortion racket,” the agency said.
The agency further claimed that it “has unravelled the modus operandi where influential members of the extortion syndicate like coal trader Suryakant Tiwari, Saumya Chaurasia, Sameer Vishnoi (IAS), etc. have used their relatives to create benami assets. Land deals were done at a minimum cheque amount and a large amount of cash out of the extortion collection was infused to buy the assets”. Tiwari, according to the ED’s attachment order, was the “main henchman” to extort money from coal transporters and industrialists.
The investigation and money trail has brought several top bureaucrats in the Chhattisgarh government under the ED’s scanner, including the office of the CM, with Chaurasia’s statements being recorded and verified with the evidence gathered so far.
The ED said it has “provisionally attached movable and 91 immovable properties worth Rs 152.3 crore belonging to Suryakant Tiwari (65 properties), Saumya Chaurasia (21 properties), deputy secretary to CM of Chhattisgarh, Sameer Vishnoi, IAS (five properties) and assets of Sunil Agarwal and others”. All the accused have been arrested. The properties included cash, jewellery, flats, coal washeries and farmhouses.
“The ED has recorded statements of around 100 individuals. Investigation revealed that as part of a grand conspiracy, policy changes were made and director (mining) issued an order on July 15, 2020 to modify an existing efficient online system of issuance of transport permits, to introduce a manual layer where coal users were forced to apply for NOC with state mining officers,” the agency said.
Due to this manual permit system, Tiwari and his employees were used to extort illegal ‘levy’ from transporters, which has been estimated by the ED at the rate of Rs 25 per tonne of transported coal. All the transaction details were documented by the accused.

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