ED arrests Bengal minister in ration distribution case
Mallick is the first Trinamool Congress leader to be arrested in the alleged ration distribution scam
New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate arrested West Bengal minister Jyoti Priya Mallick on Friday after questioning him for nearly 20 hours in the alleged multi-crore ration distribution scam. Mallick, who now holds the portfolios of public enterprises, industrial reconstruction and forests, was the state’s food minister between 2011 and 2021.
Mallick is the first Trinamool Congress leader to be arrested in the alleged ration distribution scam.
Since July 2022, other senior TMC leaders, legislators and ministers such as Partha Chatterjee, Manik Bhattacharya, Jiban Krishna Saha and Anubrata Mondal have been arrested for their suspected involvements in alleged school recruitment scam and cattle smuggling scam.
“I have become the victim of a deep-rooted conspiracy,” Mallick told reporters while being escorted from his residence in Salt Lake area of Kolkata by ED officials and personnel of the CRPF at around 4am on Friday.
On October 14, the ED arrested businessman Bakibur Rahaman who they alleged siphoned off rice and wheat meant to be supplied to ration distributors and sold in the open market.
There were at least three FIRs lodged against Rahaman and his associates in Nadia district between 2020 and 2022. The ED began its probe in the case in April, and has now alleged that Rahaman has “close ties” with Mallick.
Police refused to divulge any information about the investigation on Friday.
Mallick was produced in the Bankshall court which remanded him in ED custody till November 6.
During the hearing, ED officials told the court that they have found three companies that were being used to siphon off money, and that Mallick took loans from these entities.
The central agency also told the court that the bank balance of Mallick’s wife shot up from less than ₹50,000 in 2015 to several crores in a two years, and said that their raids had resulted in the seizure of a “diary” that detailed some of the transactions made.
Mallick’s lawyer, Anindya Raut, said: “These are all baseless allegations. The agency may make any allegation. They have to prove the allegations in the court. My client is very ill. One of his kidneys is almost damaged.”
BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari urged the ED to widen its probe and look into the role of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. “Chief minister Mamata Banerjee didn’t appoint Jyotipriya Mallick as the minister in charge of the Food & Supplies Department; Govt of WB, in 2021 as she wanted to save him from the glare of Central Investigation Agencies, after engaging in mountainous corruption for a decade as the Food & Supplies Minister from 2011 to 2021,” Adhikari wrote on his X handle.
The TMC responded to Adhikari and said that the BJP had no grounds to preach “honesty”. “Suvendu Adhikari, quick to hurl baseless allegations against us, is the one who was caught on camera accepting bribes. We ask: Why didn’t ED investigate him? Why is he exempted? Are laws not applicable to BJP’s leaders?” the party wrote on its official X handle.
Soon after the court order, Mallick lost consciousness and fell to the ground, after which he was taken to a private hospital.
On Thursday even as raids were in progress, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said: “Mallick is not keeping well. He has high sugar levels. If he dies, we will lodge an FIR against the BJP and ED.”