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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Abhishek Banerjee alleges team of income tax officials raiding his chopper meant to fly him to Malda

TMC MP dubs it a raid, team denies charge

Kinsuk Basu Calcutta Published 15.04.24, 09:59 AM
Abhishek Banerjee’s helicopter at Behala Flying Club 

Abhishek Banerjee’s helicopter at Behala Flying Club 

Abhishek Banerjee, the Trinamul national general secretary, alleged on Sunday that a team of income tax (IT) officials “raided” the chopper meant to fly him to Haldia on Monday, and found nothing.

The IT team also searched his security personnel, Abhishek said, the incident starting a fresh political slugfest between Trinamul and the BJP barely five days ahead of the first phase of polls.

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Senior officials in the transport department said the chopper, which Trinamul has hired for its election campaigns, was stationed at the Behala Flying Club in Calcutta and was readying for a trial run to Haldia ahead of Abhishek’s visit on Monday when an IT team arrived on Sunday afternoon.

The pilot had taken his seat inside the chopper, sources said, and by 2.30pm all necessary clearances had reached to start the trial run to Haldia and back when an IT team reached the gates of the sprawling flying club.

Since Abhishek has Z-plus security cover, his personal security officer (PSO) was also inside the chopper ahead of take-off.

The IT team arrived at the flying club and asked cops permission to enter, which was granted. While it isn’t clear what exactly transpired over the next hour at the flying club and inside the chopper, Abhishek alleged searches were carried out inside the chopper.

“Instead of removing the @NIA_India DG and SP, @ECISVEEP and @BJP4India chose to deploy MINIONS FROM IT to search and raid my chopper and security personnel today, resulting in NO FINDINGS. The zamindars can exert all their might but Bengal’s SPIRIT OF RESISTANCE will never waver,” Abhishek wrote on his X handle.

Some Trinamul leaders alleged that the visiting IT team stopped security personnel from videographing the search as the officials went about checking bags.

“The security personnel were threatened and told they would be detained.... This is politics of vengeance,” said Kunal Ghosh, Trinamul’s spokesperson.

“Five days before elections, hordes of cash are recovered from the cars of BJP leaders in Jalpaiguri. What do @IncomeTaxIndia officials do? Raid Shri @abhishekaitc’s chopper, while @ECISVEEP remains a mute spectator...,” Trinamul posted on its X handle.

Sources in the IT department said it received an alert from the air traffic control (ATC) about the chopper taking off for Haldia. Accordingly, a quick response team, set up for the election, was sent for a search. Sunday’s incident was no typical raid under Section 30 of the IT Act, insiders said. “The ATC is mandated by the Election Commission to inform central agencies about any aircraft or chopper taking off from or landing on any airstrip during poll time,” said a senior IT official. “At best, Sunday’s incident can be called a verification on the alert.... Raids or searches are elaborate affairs involving warrants,” the official said.

Senior IT officials maintained the QRT team did not enter the chopper and left after asking some questions to those present.

Commenting on Trinamul MP’s reaction, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari said: “Instead of creating a fuss over the IT raid, which was aimed at ensuring a clean poll campaign, Abhishek should have quietly cooperated with the officials. Is he above the law of the country?”

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