A special CBI court in West Burdwan’s Asansol on Thursday remanded seven ECL officials, including one general manager and three former general managers who were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the coal smuggling case, to five days’ custody of the central investigating agency.
The CBI brought them to Asansol on Thursday morning from the state CBI headquarters at Nizam Palace in Calcutta where they were kept after arrests late on Wednesday.
Those were arrested include ECL general manager Subhash C. Moitro, three retired general managers Sushanta Banerjee, Abhijit Mullick and Tanmay Das, manager Mukesh Kumar and security officers Debasish Mukherjee and Rinku Behera.
Disclosing what led to the unprecedented arrests of so many senior present and former ECL officials, sources said the central investigating agency got details of their “unaccounted-for” wealth and bank details and transactions which didn’t support their official income.
Sources said that during interrogations the seven accused could not explain or justify their “unaccounted-for” wealth.
“They did not cooperate during the interrogation and avoided answers to many important questions. They also misled investigating officers during interrogations,” said a CBI source and added that after marathon interrogations the seven were arrested late on Wednesday night.
Of the seven arrested, two were named in the FIR. Sources said the CBI learnt the names of five more accused not named in the FIR while interrogating those arrested earlier in the coal smuggling case.
The CBI had earlier arrested alleged coal smugglers Gurupada Maji, Joydeb Mandal, Naran Kharka, Nirod Mandal and Bikash Mishra in connection with the case. Sources said they were close associates of prime accused Anup Maji alias Lala, who along with four ECL officials were named in the first FIR lodged by the CBI when it took up the coal scam probe in November 2019. Later during the course of the probe, names of a few ECL officials, Trinamul leaders and police officers were linked to the scam.
CBI sources said all seven ECL officials arrested enjoyed “undue advantage” illegally and accepted money as bribe several times between 2018 and 2020 from Anup in the multi-crore coal scam case.
However, sources said one of those arrested, Tanmay Das, a retired GM (security) of ECL, claimed before the court that he had lodged at least 500 complaints of coal theft during his service in various police stations across the coal belt, including a letter to the chief minister's office, urging them to stop the menace.
Coal smugglers dig pits to extract coal illegally and a cartel transports it in trucks to clients.
CBI sources said the process of organised loot of the national property could not have gone on peacefully for long if a section of ECL management, its security personnel, local police and ruling party leaders were not involved.
One of the FIRs had named the ECL’s security in-charge Dhananjay Rai, who suffered a heart attack and died during interrogation on his “unaccounted-for wealth” by the CBI in January 2020.
Reacting to the arrests, Trinamul spokesperson Kunal Ghosh denied the involvement of his party members in the coal scam.
“The ECL is a central public sector company and the arrests show the involvement of ECL officials,” he said.
In a related development, the enforcement directorate (ED) has summoned law and labour minister Maloy Ghatak for the fourth time and Trinamul MLA from Bagmundi (Purulia) Sushanta Mahato for the first time to its Delhi headquarters on Friday for interrogations in the coal scam case.