In a significant development in the ongoing Enforcement Directorate (ED) coal levy case, a specialized court in Raipur has issued summonses to nine individuals, including two Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from the ruling Congress party in Chhattisgarh and two other prominent party leaders. This development compelled these individuals to appear in court on October 25.
The ED has made grave allegations, claiming that an illegal coal levy of Rs 25 per tonne was covertly collected from coal-consuming companies. This unauthorized collection is suspected to have been orchestrated by intermediaries in collusion with influential politicians and bureaucrats within Chhattisgarh. Over recent years, it is alleged that more than Rs 540 crore was amassed through this illicit practice, with a portion purportedly benefiting Congress politicians, as asserted by the central agency.
In recent weeks, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act court has served legal notices to nine out of the 11 individuals implicated in the case. All these accused individuals were subjects of a supplementary prosecution complaint filed in the court last month. Saurabh Kumar Pande, the ED’s special public prosecutor, has confirmed this development and stressed the importance of the nine accused promptly seeking anticipatory bail. Failure to secure such bail could potentially result in their detention when they appear in court.
Among the four Congress leaders named in the ED’s complaint, MLAs Devendra Yadav and Chandradev Rai, along with Vinod Tiwari and party spokesperson R P Singh, have been singled out as “politically exposed persons.” Devendra Yadav is alleged to have received approximately Rs 3 crore, which he purportedly used for personal purposes and to support election campaigning for the Khairagarh bypoll in April 2022. The ED has faced difficulties in tracing the whereabouts of these funds, asserting that they were disbursed for miscellaneous expenses by Mr. Yadav.
The ED has also seized properties and cash totaling Rs 19.18 lakh from Devendra Yadav. Chandradev Rai, another implicated MLA, is alleged to have received Rs 46 lakh for election funding, political expenses, and personal gifts. Gold and cash amounting to around Rs 19 lakh have been seized from him. Neither Devendra Yadav nor Chandradev Rai has responded to attempts to seek their comments on these allegations.
Vinod Tiwari, facing an array of allegations, is alleged to have received around Rs 1.87 crore to cover political and personal expenses. The ED has also revealed that Tiwari has 50 criminal cases registered against him, with some of these funds purportedly utilized during the Khairagarh bypoll. The ED’s findings suggest that chats between Suryakant Tiwari and Vinod Tiwari indicate that Rs 60 lakh was disbursed to zilla panchayat members, including the chairman, president, and vice-president. Despite the inability to trace the proceeds of this alleged crime, Tiwari’s assets, including a shop valued at Rs 14.17 lakh, have been seized.
In response to these allegations, Vinod Tiwari has asserted that he is being targeted due to his involvement in a disproportionate assets case against the former chief minister, Raman Singh. He contends that the 50 cases filed against him are politically motivated and originate from protests against the BJP government during its 15-year rule. He further emphasizes that he has been acquitted in many of these cases.
R P Singh, another accused in the case, is said to have received approximately Rs 2.01 crore for political and personal expenses. The ED alleges that Singh organized parties for Congress MLAs and journalists but acknowledges the challenge of tracing the proceeds of this alleged criminal activity. The ED has seized Singh’s property and bank balance totaling Rs 91.78 lakh. Singh has refrained from commenting on the issue, citing its ongoing legal status.
The central figures implicated in this alleged crime are businessman Suryakant Tiwari and Saumya Chaurasiya, a former deputy secretary to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. Both individuals have been identified as the masterminds behind the operation and have remained in judicial custody since their arrest last year.
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