The Enforcement Directorate probe into the Rs 35,000 crore foodgrain scam will be the largest investigation to be undertaken by it in a single matter, in terms of the number of cases and accused involved.
The Directorate, which is currently studying the court order, faces an uphill task as the alleged scam spreads across 41 districts of the state besides neighbouring states and also foreign countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.
Official sources said it is also suspected that free or subsidised foodgrains meant for public distribution system and other welfare schemes for those below poverty line (BPL) - Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (now integrated with NERGS), Antyodaya Yojana and Mid-day Meal Scheme, were also exported on the sly to African countries.
The High Court in an order dated December 3 had said, the ED "shall also proceed with search and seizure of assets, property, cash or kind earned under the food scam under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act or any other law time being in force expeditiously."
The number of cases and accused involved in the scam is huge. For instance, in Gonda alone, a total number of 63 cases have been registered by state investigative agencies, out of which, in 62 cases chargesheet against 233 persons have been filed by the Economic Offences Wing and further proceedings are going on/pending in respect of 56 persons.
In Ballia district, 43 cases have been registered and in Lakhimpur Kheri, the Special Investigations Team is probing 61 cases.
"The total number of cases involved will run into several hundred. The number of accused will be much more," a source said.
Official sources said the Directorate is likely to focus on the big fishes involved in the scam.
The scam is likely to be biggest of all the current scams that are being probed by various investigative agencies.
The High Court, in its judgement, had observed that "smuggling of foodgrains by fabrication of records using the numbers of motorcycle, scooter, maxi cab, mini bus, tempo etc. and then transporting it to far off places of eastern and southern India and to railway stations, sea ports is not only daring but shows that now public servants feel that they have unfettered right to indulge into corrupt practices having remote chance of punishment by the Court of competent jurisdiction. It is unfortunate for the country."