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School Service Commission Scam

Enforcement Directorate quizzes Partha Chatterjee at Naktala home

ED sources said the money was seized from the flat of a woman named Arpita Mukherjee, who is associated with the minister

Kinsuk Basu | Published 23.07.22, 07:58 AM
Partha Chatterjee.

Partha Chatterjee.

File photo

Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers questioned Partha Chatterjee, Bengal’s former education minister, for over 12 hours at his Naktala house on the southern fringes on Friday in connection with the probe into alleged irregularities in the recruitment of teachers and other staff for government-run and aided schools.

Officers were at his home past 9pm.

On Friday evening, the ED tweeted a picture of a heap of cash and said: “ED is carrying out search operations at various premises linked to recruitment scam in the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Primary Education Board.”

ED sources said the money was seized from the flat of a woman named Arpita Mukherjee, who is associated with Chatterjee. According to one source, they had seized over Rs 20 crore.

Sources said at least three counting machines were deployed to count the seized cash. According to some, this is the largest cash haul in West Bengal.

While the ED team was questioning Chatterjee, now industries and commerce minister, in Naktala, a separate team of income tax officials visited his relative’s house in Pingla in Purba Medinipur.

A team from the central agency simultaneously raided the house of the minister of state for education, Paresh Adhikary, in Cooch Behar’s Mekhligunj in north Bengal.

Adhikary’s daughter Ankita had allegedly got a teacher’s job at a high school illegally. She was removed from the post following a Calcutta High Court order and had to return the money she had got as salary.

Separate ED teams visited at least 12 other places across Kolkata and districts as part of the probe.

“The ED’s role is to find out whether money had changed hands during the recruitment of school staff. We are acting under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA),” said a senior ED officer. “Aspects of criminality and conspiracy behind the alleged recruitments are being probed by the CBI.”

Sources said a team of ED officers reached Chatterjee’s home around 7.30am and informed the security personnel about their intent to question the minister.

A message was immediately sent to the minister, who was on the first floor. The team went upstairs and said no one would be allowed in without their consent.

Officers said that ahead of the visit they had recorded statements of several candidates, who were among the many who had alleged monetary transactions in recruitment of teachers in state government-run and aided schools.

The ED has drawn up a separate FIR to probe the money trail and identify the alleged beneficiaries.

Towards afternoon, a few members of Chatterjee’s legal team reached his house followed by a doctor. A team of officers from the local Naktala police station stood outside the residence.

In May, Chatterjee had faced CBI officers for over eight hours at their Nizam Palace office.

In Mekhilgunj, minister Adhikary was not at home when the ED team reached his house. He was in Kolkata.

Officers questioned his daughter Ankita and wife for close to seven hours and left around 4pm.

Trinamul MLA and former state primary education board president Manik Bhattacharya’s house was also raided on Friday, officers said.

ED teams visited several other officials allegedly involved in the case, including Shanti Prasad Sinha, Kalyanmoy Ganguly and Soumitra Sarkar.

The Trinamul condemned the alleged “politics of vendetta by the BJP-led Centre and its agencies”.

“They were so afraid of the successful Shahid Dibas rally that they opted for this ploy to create pressure,” Trinamul state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said. A Trinamul statement added that the party knows how to counter the “attacks”.

Last updated on 23.07.22, 08:49 AM

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