The Enforcement Directorate has questioned and recorded the statement of Alankar Sawai, a close aide of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in a money laundering case in which Trinamool Congress spokesperson Saket Gokhale was recently arrested by the agency in Gujarat, officials said. Mr Sawai was questioned and also confronted with Mr Gokhale in Ahmedabad over three days earlier this week, they said.
A former banker, Mr Sawai is considered to be a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, a former Congress president, and is stated to be heading his research team.
The federal probe agency summoned Mr Sawai after it arrested 35-year-old Saket Gokhale on January 25 while he was in the Gujarat Police's custody in connection with alleged financial irregularities in raising funds through a crowdfunding platform.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), while seeking Mr Gokhale's remand on that day, had informed an Ahmedabad court that when he was asked about Rs 23.54 lakh deposited in his bank account in cash over a year, Mr Gokhale had told the agency that "this amount was given in cash by Alankar Sawai of the India National Congress for social media work and other consultancy".
On being asked as to why Mr Sawai had paid him in cash, Mr Gokhale stated that only Mr Sawai can answer this question, the ED told the court in its remand paper.
"Further, on being asked regarding any written agreement with Alankar Sawai in respect of social media work he stated that it was only verbal agreement with Alankar Sawai," the agency said.
The ED alleged that these cash deposits were received by Saket Gokhale when he was a member of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Mr Sawai is understood to have been questioned about these instances, and his statement was recorded under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Official sources said the questioning and confronting of the two has not helped them unearth the fund trail as stated by Saket Gokhale even as Alankar Sawai purportedly denied making any cash payments.
The money laundering case against Mr Gokhale stems from a Gujarat Police FIR.
The state police arrested Mr Gokhale from Delhi in December last year in a case of alleged misuse of money he had collected through crowdfunding.
The ED had informed the Ahmedabad court that "huge amount of money collected through crowdfunding (by Mr Gokhale) has been splurged on speculative share trading, wining and dining and other personal expenses which appear to be extravagant in nature." Mr Gokhale, however, had denied that he misused these funds. The agency may question more people linked in the case.
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