The recovery of close to Rs 28 lakh in cash and a huge quantity of gold ornaments from Trinamul Congress MLA Jafikul Islam’s house in Murshidabad district during a CBI raid on Thursday saw the investigators of the central agency spend a better part of Friday preparing to summon him for a round of questioning at its Calcutta office.
There was no official communique about the raids and seizures that were carried out in at least eight locations in various parts of Bengal, including Murshidabad, Cooch Behar and Calcutta, in connection with the CBI investigation into alleged irregularities in recruitment in state-aided schools.
But senior CBI officers admitted they were stumped by the recovery of such a huge amount in cash and gold ornaments from the Domkol house of the MLA, who is under the scanner for the alleged appointment irregularities.
“We plan to send a summons to the MLA under the provisions of CrPC for questioning him about the cash and gold ornaments seized,” said a senior officer.
“Since he was not at home during the search operation, we couldn’t speak to him. We have recorded whatever his wife had to say about the money and the ornaments.”
On Thursday morning, Jafikul, 49, was away from his turf busy attending the winter session of the Assembly in Calcutta. The amount found in cash was the proceeds of a sale of landed property, whose deed MLA’s family has shown the CBI, he said.
“Five days ago, I sold an ancestral property. Since I left for Calcutta on Saturday, the money couldn’t be kept in the bank. CBI officers told me the amount should have been deposited in my bank account,” the MLA told journalists replying to queries about the cash haul.
The huge quantity of gold ornaments — the MLA’s family couldn’t allegedly disclose the source — recovered from his residence left Trinamul slightly embarrassed.
Several senior Trinamul leaders said the seizures from Jafikul’s house brought back memories of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) recovering close to Rs 50 crore from the two residences of Arpita Mukherjee, a close aide to former minister Partha Chatterjee, in July last year.
Both Mukherjee and Chatterjee are in judicial custody following their arrest in connection with the alleged irregularities in the appointments.
“We are confident Jafikul will justify the presence of the cash and jewellery whenever he is asked to. But visuals of CBI officials bringing a cash-counting machine to his house send out disturbing vibes and remind one of a similar exercise by another central investigating agency last year,” said a senior Trinamul leader.
On Thursday, the CBI team had turned up at Jafikul’s Domkol house not in search of valuables, officers said. Instead, they wanted to lay their hands on documents, if any, related to the functioning of a clutch of educational institutions that he runs at an education hub, just about a kilometre away from his house.
The investigating team wanted to verify when about 10 colleges, including B Ed, D Ed and polytechnic colleges, had received necessary clearances from the state government and who was at the helm of affairs when the nods were given.
“It’s important to understand when some of Jafikul’s colleges started attracting students in great numbers and whether there is any alleged involvement of Manik Bhattacharya, who remained the president of the state primary education board for over a decade since 2011,” a senior officer said.
Bhattacharya was arrested in October last year after the ED found his alleged involvement in the irregularities in appointments at state-aided schools.
Residents of Domkal said Jafikul’s rise had been exceptional given that he had joined politics barely seven years ago as a councillor of the local municipality and later became its chairperson.
“After graduating from college, Jafikul had a modest living as a small-time businessman who used to make muri (puffed rice) at home and sold flour. But all of sudden, he set up a B.Ed college and now runs 10 such institutions,” a Domkal resident said.
Rejecting the charges of being involved in the recruitment scam, Jafikul said: “I have struggled to set up the institutions from scratch.”
Admitting that he knew Bhattacharya, the Trinamul MLA said: “I knew Manik Bhattacharya as he helmed the board but I am not involved in corruption.”