Adding to the chagrin of Trinamul Congress’s perceived second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee, the Enforcement Directorate summoned the leader once again within a span of three weeks on October 3 for examination in connection with the primary school teachers recruitment scam case.
The summons, issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, asked Banerjee to appear with documents in support of his responses to the ED’s queries.
Abhishek’s parents, Amit and Lata Banerjee, also reportedly received similar summons for appearance before the agency next week.
Banerjee took to the social media and launched a scathing attack against both the agency and the ruling dispensation at the Centre, the BJP, for choosing the date which coincides with the Trinamul Congress’s previously announced its dharna in the Capital in protest against the Centre’s non-payment of dues to the state under various social welfare scheme heads such as MNREGA and rural housing. Banerjee, who is supposed to lead the programme amid the entire party brass’s presence in Delhi besides some 5000 deprived beneficiaries from Bengal’s grass roots, of course, found the agency move much more than a mere coincidence.
Sources in the party said that, unlike in the previous couple of occasions, Banerjee is unlikely to oblige the agency and may even seek legal reprieve against the purported political move.
The appearance notice which asks “Abhishek Banerjee the CEO of Leaps and Bounds Private Limited” to be present at the ED’s eastern regional headquarters at the CGO complex in Salt Lake at 10.30 am on Tuesday was signed by Mithilesh Kumar Mishra, Assistant Director of the agency.
Mishra happens to be the same officer who was summoned by the Calcutta high Court on Monday and severely reprimanded by Justice Amrita Sinha for dragging his feet over unearthing the list of assets of Leaps and Bounds, a company under the agency scanner for possible involvement in the scam and launder money of which Banerjee is the CEO and his both parents are named as directors in an ED report filed before the court.
The court directed both the ED as well as the CBI to file fresh reports within October 10 comprising the company’s transactions; financial and asset details of company members responsible for its day-to-day management; details of Abhishek’s residential property on 188 A, Harish Mukherjee Road; asset and valuation details of proprietorship firm of which Lata Banerjee is named as one of the directors since inception; bank account details of other company employees; probe results on whether legal formalities were duly followed while changing the company’s address from it’s initial registered address of 30 B Harish Chatterjee Street – chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence – to its current location and while adding or removing directors to its board; and details of the factory run by the company in the city among other necessary inclusions.
The court stood aghast at the ED mentioning in its earlier report that the only assets that Banerjee seemed to hold were his three life insurance policies.
Banerjee was previously quizzed for over nine hours by the ED in this case on September 13 following which the leader dared the agency to “stop its political witch hunt”, arrest him and produce evidence of his involvement in the crime in court, if it had any. The date of that examination coincided with Banerjee’s previously scheduled presence at the first meeting of coordination committee members of the opposition’s INDIA bloc which the leader had grudgingly given a miss to face agency questions.
Asked how he would respond to a possible follow up summons which might coincide with his scheduled programme in Delhi, the leader had said after emerging from the agency office: “We will be in Delhi on October 2 as scheduled because our programme is for the benefit of the masses. We will figure out what to do if any such summons is issued. I am not fleeing anywhere, I will be present as many times as they want me to.”
On Thursday, however, Banerjee wasn’t sounding as gracious. “Earlier this month, the ED summoned me on a day coinciding with an important coordinating meeting of #INDIA in Delhi. I dutifully appeared and complied with the served summons. Now, today yet again they have served me another summons to appear before them on a day when the protest agitation for West Bengal's rightful dues is scheduled in Delhi on 3rd Oct. This stark revelation unequivocally exposes those who are truly perturbED, rattlED and scarED!” he posted on his X timeline, minutes after receiving the summons.
“After facing a crushing defeat in 2021, BJP decided to inflict suffering on the people of Bengal. Blinded by revenge, they blocked Bengal’s MGNREGA and Awas Yojana funds. Banglar hwok er taka amra phiriye aanboi (We will surely bring back Bengal’s legitimate dues),” Banerjee followed up on his newly created WhatsApp channel, indicating he is likely to give the ED a miss.
Sharp responses followed from the Trinamul Congress and its leaders with the party stating on its social media handles, “BJP, how low will you stoop? First, you withhold the rightful dues of Bengal's people and let them suffer. And now, you're trying to SILENCE the voice of our people by summoning National GS Shri Abhishek Banerjee through your caged parrot, the ED, on October 3rd, the day when a protest agitation is to take place in Delhi. There's nothing more shameful than witnessing how one of the largest democracies in the world has been reduced to ashes in PM Narendra Modi’s regime.”
“First the agencies reached Abhishek’s house twice in a row when he was attending rallies in Tripura and North Bengal. Then they summoned him a day after his Trinamul Chhatra Parishad foundation day programme on August 30 last year. They called him when he was in the middle of his Naba Jowar outreach programme in the districts which he obliged with. Then they chose to call him on the day he was supposed to attend an important meeting of the INDIA coordination committee. And finally this,” said Santanu Sen, TMC MP. “This shows the level of Abhishek phobia the BJP leadership is suffering from. But the more they do these things, the more the people of Bengal will bestow their blessings on our party.”
“There is no end to BJP’s political vendetta,” added Kunal Ghosh, TMC spokesperson. “It’s a conspiracy against Abhishek and a clear example of the BJP’s attempts to suppress the demands of the people of Bengal.”
“There’s nothing new about these statements. The agency is doing its job and will continue to do so. These allegations find no acceptance among the people of this state. The probe has been stretching for far too long and we want it to end now. Let the culprits be brought to justice without any further delay,” retorted Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson.