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Sandeshkhali accused used shell firms to divert profits: ED

By, Kolkata
Apr 03, 2024 01:24 AM IST

ED claimed that arrested TMC's Sheikh Shahjahan used multiple shell companies to divert profits from fisheries that he and his men were running at Sandeshkhali

Arrested Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Sheikh Shahjahan used multiple shell companies to divert profits from fisheries that he and his men were running at Sandeshkhali in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district by grabbing farmland owned by local farmers, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) claimed before a Kolkata court on Monday.

The TMC suspended Shahjahan and two local TMC leaders after they were arrested. (PTI)
The TMC suspended Shahjahan and two local TMC leaders after they were arrested. (PTI)

The ED and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had earlier said that they had found extensive use of shell company accounts in the bribe-for-job scam in the state school department, the public distribution system (PDS) case and the cattle and coal smuggling cases. Several TMC ministers and leaders are suspects in these cases.

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In comparison, Shahjahan was only a local leader.

Shahjahan, who was in judicial custody, was transferred to the ED’s custody till April 13 by Kolkata’s Bankshall court on Monday. While seeking his custody for questioning, ED’s lawyers told the court that the federal agency has already traced more than 31 crore that Shahjahan allegedly diverted from the fishery business.

“Companies claiming to be dealing in prawns were used by Shahjahan to divert the funds. The ED has already traced 31.2 crore. The total amount involved is much bigger,” said Arijit Chakraborty, a lawyer who represented the agency in court.

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Shahjahan’s lawyer, Zakir Hossain, told the media that he objected to the allegations ED raised demanding Shahjahan’s arrest and remand under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

“I urged the court not to grant the ED’s demand for custody because ED could not provide any documentary evidence that directly implicates my client under PPMLA. But the court granted the remand,” Hossain said.

Shahjahan stayed in hiding for 55 days following the January 5 attack on ED officials, who raided his home in connection with the alleged PDS scam in which former food minister Jyotipriya Mullick was arrested last year.

Days after arresting him on February 28, state police handed over Shahjahan to the CBI following Calcutta high court’s orders. The high court asked the CBI to probe the attack on ED officers. Shahjahan was sent back to judicial custody after the CBI questioned him at its Kolkata office for several days.

On March 16, the CBI arrested Sheikh Alamgir, younger brother of Shahjahan, and two others in connection with the January 5 violence. Shahjahan, along with his associates, is accused of land grabbing, extortion and sexual crimes against local women.

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Sandeshkhali has been made a political issue by the state opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the run-up to the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls. Rekha Patra, one of the women who led an uprising against local TMC leaders in February, has been fielded by the BJP from Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency of which Sandeshkhali assembly segment is a part.

The TMC suspended Shahjahan and two local TMC leaders after they were arrested. The state government recorded a few hundred complaints after local villagers alleged that Shahjahan and his men forcefully used their lands to run saltwater fisheries.

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