WB recruitment scam: ED raids properties of expelled TMC leader Santanu Banerjee
On Saturday, teams comprising ED officials searched three of Banerjee’s properties, including a guest house at Balagarh, a three-storey house in Bandel and two flats in Chinsurah, all in Hooghly district. Banerjee was the TMC-run Hooghly Zilla Parishad Karmadakshya
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), probing the West Bengal school teachers recruitment scam, on Saturday, searched multiple properties of expelled Trinamool Congress (TMC) youth leader Santanu Banerjee in Hooghly district.
Banerjee, who was arrested by the federal agency earlier this month for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore school recruitment scam, is now in the custody of the federal agency.
On Saturday, teams comprising ED officials searched three of Banerjee’s properties, including a guest house at Balagarh, a three-storey house in Bandel and two flats in Chinsurah, all in Hooghly district. Banerjee was the TMC-run Hooghly Zilla Parishad Karmadakshya.
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“Several documents have been seized. Investigation is going on,” said an ED official. The raids which started around 10:30am continued for around eight hours, officials said.
ED also questioned three persons close to Banerjee, including a gram panchayat member and a dhaba owner. Later in the day, officials searched another house at Bidhannagar near Kolkata, which belongs to a real estate developer, said to be a close associate of Banerjee.
Priyanka Banerjee, wife of Santanu told media persons: “We had no idea about all these things. The ED is probing. I will cooperate. The truth must come out.”
The meteoric rise of Banerjee from a mechanic in a mobile shop in 2015, allegedly to a wealthy businessman with multiple properties in Hooghly district registered in his and others’ names has come under the ED’s scanner.
According to ED, the volume of the school recruitment scam in West Bengal, in which multiple TMC leaders have been arrested, may run up to ₹350 crores.
ED had previously raided Banerjee’s house in the Balagarh area of Hooghly district in January and he has been questioned several times since then. Officials alleged that the raid led to the seizure of a list of 300 examinees who appeared for the teacher eligibility test (TET).
In May 2022, Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered CBI to probe the appointment of non-teaching staff (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education between 2014 and 2021.
The appointees allegedly paid bribes in the range of ₹5-15 lakhs to get jobs after failing the selection tests. With the CBI investigation on one side, ED launched a parallel probe into the money laundering trail.
In the past few months, the ED has arrested former West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee and aide Arpita Mukherjee on July 23 last year. In July last year, ED seized ₹49.8 crore in cash and jewellery worth ₹5 crore from two flats of Arpita Mukherjee, a close associate of the former state education minister.
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Following the allegations and ED probe, chief minister Mamata Banerjee removed Chatterjee from the government and suspended him from the party. The scam allegedly took place during Chatterjee’s tenure as education minister.
TMC legislator and former president of the state primary education board Manik Bhattacharya, another accused in the scam, was arrested by ED on October 11 last year.
In January this year, ED arrested TMC youth wing leader Kuntal Ghosh in connection with its probe into large-scale irregularities in the recruitment of teachers. ED has said that Ghosh allegedly collected ₹30 crore from job seekers.