Three shell companies used to launder money in Bengal ration scam: ED
The Enforcement Directorate on Friday arrested Jyoti Priya Mallick, a minister of the chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led cabinet in connection with the Bengal ration scam
Three alleged Kolkata-based shell companies were used for laundering the proceeds of crime of the alleged ration distribution scam in West Bengal, ED officials have claimed.
An agency official claimed that the three shell companies were used to legalise the black money, which was actually the proceeds of crime arising out of the alleged scam.
The federal agency on Friday arrested Jyoti Priya Mallick, a minister of the chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led cabinet in this connection after questioning him and searching his houses for almost 20 hours since Thursday.
During raids in Mallick’s premises on Thursday, the ED allegedly found rubber stamps of the three companies - Gracious Creation Private Limited, Shree Hanuman Realcon Private Limited and Gracious Innovative Private Limited. Rubber stamps of two more Bankura-based companies - M/s AJ Agrotech and M/s AJ Royal - were also found.
“Initially both Mallick and his wife had been saying that they had no knowledge about the firms. But when the rubber stamps were found they started fumbling,” said an official.
According to the ED, all the three companies were opened in 2008 with the same address, a ground floor of a residential building on Jessore Road at Nagerbazar in Kolkata.
On October 14, the ED had arrested businessman Bakibur Rahaman who they alleged would siphon off rice and wheat meant to be supplied to ration distributors, only to be sold in the open market. The ED has now alleged that Rahaman has “close ties” with Mallick.
While Mallick’s daughter and wife were earlier associated with these firms, they are now run by Rahaman and his brother-in-law. The wife, daughter and mother of Mallick’s domestic help were allegedly made the directors of these companies.
“The ED is making all baseless allegations. They would have to prove all these in the court,” said Anindya Raut, Mallick’s advocate.
Huge transactions, including crores of cash deposits, were allegedly made through these companies, ED has learnt.
“Between 2016 November and 2017 March, at least ₹6.3 crore and ₹3.7 crore were deposited in the accounts of Mallick’s wife and daughter from these companies,” said an ED official.
The agency has also frozen the bank accounts of Mallick, his wife and daughter. His mobile phones are also likely to be sent for forensic analysis to retrieve chat and call history.
The agency claims to have found transactions of at least ₹12 crore made through these companies.
It also claimed that during interrogation, Rahaman has confessed that Mallick took loans of around ₹20 crore from these companies, which he never returned.
“The ED is making some baseless allegations. They may make any allegations in the court and before the media but they won’t be able to substantiate them in the court. We are hopeful to get bail soon. The ED had registered its ECIR based on five FIRs registered between 2020 and 2022 in various police stations in Nadia district against siphoning off of government food grains. My client’s name doesn’t appear in any of the five FIRs,” said Arko Bhattacharya, Rahaman’s counsel.
Bakibur was produced before the court on Saturday after 14 days of ED custody came to an end. He was sent to judicial custody till November 11.
Meanwhile Amit Dey, personal assistant of Mallick and Abhijit Das, a close associate of the minister, both of whose houses were also searched on Thursday, appeared before the ED for questioning on Saturday.
“A maroon-coloured diary, found from Das’ house during the search has details of several transactions. The name Balu da (as Mallick is popularly known as) was written on the diary,” said an official.
“The Who, When, Where and How Much of the @AITCofficial industry of Scams will come out as the infamous ‘Maroon Diary of Balu’ turns its pages...” Sukanta Majumdar, state BJP president, wrote on his X handle.
“The BJP party is on the wane in West Bengal because of their infighting. Their MPs are speaking out against their state president. Corrupt politicians join the party to evade ED and CBI probe. Out of the 303 MPs, 116 have criminal cases pending against them. This party has no right to point fingers at others,” TMC’s Santanu Sen told the media.