The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting searches at the premises of West Bengal Law Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader, Moloy Ghatak, in connection with its probe into alleged coal smuggling case from Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) mines in Asansol, officials said on Wednesday, 7 September.
The searches at Ghatak's three houses in Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman district, and one in Lake Gardens area of Kolkata, they said.
The multi-crore coal pilferage scam is related to the Eastern Coalfields Ltd mines in the state's Kunustoria and Kajora areas.
The case allegedly involves illegal mining and smuggling of coal worth crores of rupees across West Bengal's borders to Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar with the help of government officials and politicians.
The agency, aided by a huge contingent of central paramilitary personnel, conducted searches in these properties in connection with the scam. Women officers were also part of the team.
"As his name surfaced in the coal smuggling scam, we need to find out what was his role in it. We have evidence of Ghatak's involvement in the scam," the CBI officer told news agency PTI.
Ghatak was not present in any of his residences when the raids took place.
The CBI sleuths took away mobile phones from the state law minister's family members and made them sit in one room in his Asansol houses, he said.
The entire areas around Ghatak's residences were surrounded by central forces when the raids took place.
The agency also conducted searches at four different places in Kolkata in connection with the scam. Incidentally, Ghatak, the Asansol Uttar MLA, has appeared once before Enforcement Directorate officers at its Delhi office for questioning in connection with the coal pilferage case.
He, however, has skipped several other summonses of the ED in connection with the scam.
The CBI had registered a First Information Report (FIR) in November 2020 against the alleged kingpin of the pilferage racket, Anup Manjhi alias Lala, ECL general managers Amit Kumar Dhar and Jayesh Chandra Rai, ECL security chief Tanmay Das, Kunustoria area security inspector Dhananjay Rai and Kajor area security in-charge Debashish Mukherjee.
This comes days after TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, who appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on 2 September, had said that if the allegations against him are proved right, then he is ready to accept the death penalty.
Banerjee appeared at ED's office in West Bengal's capital Kolkata in connection with a probe into the alleged coal pilferage scam in the state.
(With inputs from PTI.)