CBI questions Bengal industry minister in I-Core chit fund case
A three-member team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questioned West Bengal industry minister Partha Chatterjee for two hours on Monday in connection with the I-Core chit fund case. An officer said on condition of anonymity that the agency was in possession of some video clips showing Chatterjee at a public event with Anukul Maity, the managing director of I-Core, who was arrested over alleged money-laundering of deposits received from investors in 2015.
The I-Core sponsored event in question was held in 2011, the year Trinamool Congress (TMC) party came to power. Maity died in judicial custody in November last year. His company allegedly raised around ₹7,000 crore from the market by promising high returns.
CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is also probing all chit fund cases in Bengal, had summoned Chatterjee in March and April but he did not appear before the agencies saying he was campaigning for the polls. He won the Behala West assembly seat in south-west Kolkata for the fifth time.
On September 8, CBI sent fresh summons to Chatterjee, asking him to come to CBI’s office at the CGO Complex in south Kolkata on September 13. The senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader wrote to the agency that he was busy with the assembly bypoll at Bhawanipore and would not be able to go anywhere. The probe agency then informed the minister that he would be questioned in his office.
The CBI team arrived at the Camac Street office of the industry department at 12.30 pm and left at 2.15 pm. The office is located less than a kilometre away from the CGO complex at Nizam Palace.
Chatterjee is the party’s observer for the September 30 by-election in Bhawanipore where Mamata Banerjee is contesting for re-election to assembly so that she can continue as chief minister after losing to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram seat in East Midnapore district.
The fresh summons to Chatterjee was sent 48 hours after TMC national general secretary and the chief minister’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee was questioned for almost nine hours by ED in Delhi in connection with the coal smuggling case that CBI is also probing.
The chief minister targeted the Centre on September 8 and accused it of activating the probe agencies before the polls.
“They summoned Abhishek and Partha. Why? The agencies have become proactive because of the elections. They are summoning those who did nothing and not touching the one who took money,” the chief minister said at a TMC worker’s meeting in Bhowanipore, indirectly referring to her protégé-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari, who is an accused in the Narada and Saradha cases.
After the questioning, Chatterjee said, “How was I supposed to know the background of the company and its activities while attending a public programme? I told CBI that I will cooperate in the investigation. The officers were very courteous.” CBI officers refused to comment.
The probe into the chit fund cases started in 2014 following an order from the apex court. The other big chit fund companies under investigation are Saradha and Rose Valley.