India

CBI Raids 45 Places In Bengal, Jharkhand In Connection With Coal Scam

CBI Raids 45 Places In Bengal, Jharkhand In Connection With Coal Scam
New Delhi/Kolkata:

The CBI today raided 45 places across four states in connection with a case of illegal mining and theft of coal from public sector coal firm Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL), which operates in West Bengal and Jharkhand.

The search operations were based on an FIR filed on Friday, which named two general managers, two other officials, and the chief security officer of ECL, besides a private person, Anup Majhi.

It is in West Bengal that Mr Majhi, the alleged kingpin of the illegal operation, is based, sources said. The home and offices of the suspect, who lives in Asansol, are also being searched along with those of his associates.

The other three states where the raids are on or may begin shortly are Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar.

In West Bengal, besides Asansol and other spots, searches are on in Durgapur, Raniganj in Burdwan district, and Bishnupur in the South 24 Parganas district.

The agency has registered a case for alleged illegal mining and theft of coal from ECL's Kunustoria and Kajoria fields.

Mr Majhi, also known as Lala, allegedly runs an operation in open cast coal mines along the Bengal-Jharkhand border.

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The income tax department was investigating him and had served noticec on him earlier this month, around the same time when Union Home Minister Amit Shah was on a two day visit to Kolkata. In response to a question at a press meet, Mr Shah asked, "Why is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee so concerned about raids against 'Lala'?"

Earlier, Ms Banerjee had remarked at a press meet about the raids by central agencies in West Bengal coinciding with the Home Minister's visit.

Funds from the coal racket, sources say, may be reaching some political parties in the state.

The CBI has also cracked down on a cattle smuggling case in West Bengal in which the alleged kingpin, Enamul Haq, a resident of Murshidabad district, has been arrested. He is on interim bail after testing positive for COVID-19. A Border Security Force officer linked to cattle smuggling was also arrested soon after.

Under the scanner is a possible linked between the cattle-smuggling and coal rackets.

These raids come months before elections to the 294-member West Bengal Assembly are held in April-May next year. After having a limited presence in the politically polarised state for decades, the BJP has emerged as the main rival of the ruling Trinamool Congress by winning 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in the 2019 general elections.