Ranchi, Feb. 22: A government official today told a special court that a “lot of money exchanged hands” while awarding iron ore mining leases during 2005 and 2008, the time when Madhu Koda was minister and chief minister.
Basant Kumar Bhattacharya, a mines department assistant, was the first witness to be produced by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) before the special court of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Ranchi, with R.K. Choudhary in the chair.
“We have produced a key witness, Bhattacharya, a mining department official, before the PMLA Court today,” S. R. Das, senior public prosecutor said.
Though details of his deposition weren’t available, sources confided that Bhattacharya virtually spilled the beans on the modus operandi, including exchange of vast sums of money, that was followed for grant of iron ore mining lease to applicants during Koda’s tenure.
Bhattacharya, the sources added, also threw light on the norms that were being flouted to grant of mining leases to favoured applicants.
The mining official, who was questioned both by income tax and ED officials in 2010, had confessed to them that corporates had bribed close aides of the former chief minister for seeking benefits in the allotment of mines in Jharkhand.
On January 29, Supreme Court granted 45 days to ED to complete its probe against Koda. Since then, ED officials have turned on the heat on all aides of the former chief minister in a bid to gather concrete evidence on the money laundering scam.
The ED notched a success late last month by ensuring fugitive businessman Anil Adinath Bastavade got deported from Indonesia after which he was lodged at the Birsa Munda Central Jail, Ranchi.
The PMLA court, Ranchi, yesterday declared Sanjay Chaudhary and Dhananjay Chaudhary “absconders” and issued red corner notices against five other aides of the former Jharkhand chief minister. It also ordered the seizure of their assets.
Sources revealed that an ED team from Delhi had already reached Ranchi to question Koda, close aide Binod Kumar Sinha and MD of Indo Asahi Glass Factory Bijay Joshi in connection with the money laundering scam.
The trio would be interrogated inside the Birsa Munda jail.
On February 12, the special PMLA court agreed to a prayer by the ED to question Koda and two of his aides all over again.
Though counsels for Sinha and Joshi had strongly opposed the ED prayer, the court granted permission to the ED to go ahead.