ED gets custody of Chhattisgarh CMO official Saumya Chaurasia for 4 more days
ED told the Raipur court on Tuesday that Saumya Chaurasia shared confidential government information with coal trader Suryakant Tiwari who is at the centre of the case relating to alleged extortion of an illegal levy from coal and mining transporters in the state
RAIPUR: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday told a Raipur court that WhatsApp chats accessed by the income tax department from the phone of bureaucrat Saumya Chaurasia indicated that she shared confidential official information with the coal trader Suryakant Tiwari.
Saumya Chaurasia, deputy secretary at Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel’s office, was arrested by ED on Friday in a money-laundering case linked to the alleged extortion of an illegal levy from coal and mining transporters in the state. Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel had dubbed her arrest as “politically motivated”.
ED referred to the WhatsApp chats in its request to seek an extension of Chaurasia’s custody.
On Tuesday, the court remanded Chaurasia, a Chhattisgarh administrative service official, in ED custody for four more days. The court also extended the judicial custody of IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi, coal trader Suryakant Tiwari and two others who were arrested earlier and ordered that the five be produced on December 10.
Chaurasia’s lawyer, Faizal Rizvi, rebutted the ED charges, insisting that central agencies raided the official’s premises earlier and found nothing but still levelled baseless allegations to humiliate the official.
“The I-T and ED have raided the premises of Chaurasia several times and nothing was found. The WhatsApp chat that they are talking about has been questioned and addressed earlier by ED and has got nothing. The properties which they have mentioned in the application have already been declared by her. It Is just to humiliate a woman that they are demanding custody,” said Rizvi.
In its application for extending Saumya Chaurasia’s custody, ED said she was confronted about sharing confidential government information with Suryakant Tiwari over WhatsApp. “In reply, she stated that it (information) was sent mistakenly. It is evident that the highly confidential information/documents were deliberately shared. That she revealed all day-to-day activities and confidential details to Tiwari..” ED said in its application.
The agency also alleged that agriculture land was purchased in the name of Chaurasia’s family members by paying in cash over and above the registered sale value and the source of this cash was proceeds of crime generated from the illegal cash extortion from coal transportation.
“...Unsecured loan and gifts availed by family members of Chaurasia are nothing but proceeds of crime generated out of illegal means by Chaurasia by misusing her power and official position. The ED has gathered sufficient evidence to show that Chaurasia, because of her position in the Chief Minister’s Office, enjoys power and influence which is far higher than her administrative experience and rank,” ED said.
In October, the probe agency arrested IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi and others after multi-city raids in the state. The agency earlier claimed that a “massive scam” was taking place in coal transportation in Chhattisgarh, under which a “cartel” of politicians, officers and others was allegedly running a “parallel system of extorting illegal levy”, which was generating about ₹2-3 crore daily.
It alleged that the “main kingpin of this scam is Suryakant Tiwari and his associates who entered into a criminal conspiracy to run a parallel system of extorting illegal levy on coal and were doing illegal and unaccounted cash movement”. The agency said it has seized “unaccounted” cash of ₹4.5 crore, gold jewellery, bullion and other valuables worth around ₹2 crore during the raids.
The agency said an illegal coal levy of ₹500 crore was collected over the past 16 months in collusion with government officials.