Abhishek Banerjee summoned again by ED for questioning in coal smuggling case
Trinamool Congress (TMC) national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has been summoned again by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to its Delhi office on September 21 for questioning in the coal smuggling case.
The ED questioned the young Lok Sabha MP and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew for almost nine hours in Delhi on September 6. He was summoned for the second time on September 8 but Banerjee did not visit the ED office and informed the agency that he was unable to travel from Kolkata at such short notice.
On September 6, Banerjee threw a challenge at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying using probe agencies against TMC leaders will not help the saffron camp gain any political ground in Bengal.
“TMC will never bow before you (BJP). Do whatever you can. If the ED has any evidence against me, make it public. If anybody can prove that I have accepted even ten paisa from anyone I will voluntarily walk to the gallows and hang myself,” Banerjee had said before reaching the ED office. He reiterated himself while leaving Delhi.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) started the probe in the coal smuggling case and the ED initiated a parallel investigation.
The CBI registered the case in November last year. It is alleged that illegally mined coal, worth several thousand crores of rupees, have been sold in the black market over several years by a racket operating in the western parts of West Bengal where the Eastern Coalfields Limited runs several mines.
Reacting to the third summons from ED, TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “Abhishek Banerjee is being harassed because he is expanding the party beyond Bengal. Why is no action being taken against BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari who was caught on camera accepting money in the Narada sting operation that both CBI and the ED are probing?”
The ED was recently permitted by a special court in Kolkata to summon two ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC legislator Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee in the Narada case. They were all arrested by the CBI on May 17 and released on bail after days of judicial custody.
Before summoning Banerjee, the ED wanted to question his wife, Rujira Banerjee, in the first week of September. She however did not go to the ED’s office in Delhi citing the risk a mother of two infants might face while travelling during the Covid pandemic. She wrote a mail to the agency saying it would be convenient for her if ED officers came to her Kolkata residence.
Rujira Banerjee was questioned by the CBI in February. The CBI team visited Abhishek Banerjee’s residence. In March, the CBI also questioned Rujira’s sister Maneka Gambhir and the latter’s husband Ankush Arora and father-in-law, Pawan Arora.
Among the prime suspects is former TMC youth front general secretary and businessman Vinay Mishra who renounced his Indian citizenship in December and became a citizen of Vanuatu, a small island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.