Assets Of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister's Aide, Others Frozen In Coal Probe

The Enforcement Directorate has targetted "persons at the highest level, having command and control over the state machinery" in Chhattisgarh in the case.

Assets Of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister's Aide, Others Frozen In Coal Probe

Bhupesh Baghel has called the probe "an attempt to defame" the state's leaders and officials.

New Delhi:

Flats, jewellery and cash belonging to arrested Chhattisgarh bureaucrats including key aides to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and others have been frozen, the Enforcement Directorate said on Saturday, in an alleged money laundering case involving coal mining.

Plots of land and coal washing units are also among the frozen assets, amounting to Rs 152.31 crore in all and belonging to Deputy Secretary Saumya Chaurasia, IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi, and others, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said in a statement.

The probe agency issued a provisional order for the attachment of some movable and 91 immovable properties on Friday under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act or PMLA. Attaching a property means it cannot be transferred, converted or moved.

The frozen assets include 65 properties belonging to a coal trader and "main kingpin" in the case, Suryakant Tiwari, 21 properties of Saumya Chaurasia, a powerful bureaucrat of the state administrative service posted in the Chief Minister's Office, and five assets of 2009-batch IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi apart from that of another coal businessman of Chhattisgarh, Sunil Agarwal and some others, the ED said.

All four, apart from another businessman Laxmikant Tiwari (uncle of Suryakant Tiwari), have been arrested by the agency in the case.

The money laundering case by the ED involves "a massive scam in which an illegal levy of Rs 25 was being extorted for every tonne of coal transported in Chhattisgarh by a cartel involving senior bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and middlemen", the agency has said.

"This kind of systemic extortion was not possible without the knowledge and active participation of the state machinery," the ED said, implicating the Congress government in the state.

The Chhattisgarh government is yet to respond to the latest charges. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has called the probe "an attempt to defame" officials and politicians from the state and accused the agency of torturing and harassing the accused bureaucrats.

"The fact that it ran uninterrupted without a single FIR and collected around Rs 500 crore in 2 years, clearly indicates that all the accused persons were acting in a concerted manner at the instructions of persons at the highest level, having command and control over the state machinery," the agency said on Saturday.

"ED is investigating the entire gamut of transactions in relation to the extortion racket. ED investigation has revealed that an amount of at least Rs 540 Crore has been extorted in the last two years," it added.

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