West Bengal

Money laundering case against Narada accused

Print edition : May 26, 2017

LESS than two weeks after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a first information report against 13 persons, including 12 top leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress, in connection with the Narada sting case, the party received a fresh jolt on April 28 when the Enforcement Directorate (E.D.) registered a money laundering case against the accused.

The 12 Trinamool leaders, including MPs, Ministers and MLAs, and an Indian Police Service officer, were caught accepting cash on camera in a sting operation carried out by the news portal Narada News in 2014, and the video clips were made public in 2016 just before the Assembly elections in the State (Frontline, May 12). In March, under the direction of the Calcutta High Court, the CBI began a preliminary enquiry into the case and registered its FIR under appropriate sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and the Indian Penal Code on April 17. On the basis of this FIR, the E.D. lodged a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

“The ED is investigating where this money seen changing hands in the Narada sting went, and the charges are under Section 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,” a senior E.D. official said. Section 4 of the Act lays down that anyone who commits the offence of money laundering shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than three years but which may extend to seven years and also be liable to a fine of up to Rs.5 lakh.

The E.D. action has opened up another aspect to the investigation, which had been conducted from the corruption angle by the CBI. According to legal experts, the scope of the money laundering investigation is much wider. “Such investigation of economic offence does not often remain restricted to a single case. In the course of investigating the Narada case, a totally separate case of money being siphoned off may also come to the fore. The E.D. is empowered to investigate that too,” Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, a criminal lawyer practising in the Calcutta High Court, told Frontline.

The situation is worrying for the ruling party, which has been embroiled in one scam after another, the two most notable ones being the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam and the Rs.17,000-crore Rose Valley scam. Several top Trinamool leaders have had to spend time behind bars for their alleged involvement in these scams. The latest arrests were of Tapas Paul, MP, and Sudip Bandopadhyay, Leader of the Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha, for their alleged involvement in the Rose Valley scam.

On April 28, the day before the E.D. announced its probe, the CBI filed a supplementary charge sheet against Sudip Bandopadhyay and Tapas Paul. According to the charge sheet, the two MPs “abused their official position and participated and aided the illegal fund collection business of the company. They allegedly promoted the illegal business of the company by writing letters to the regulators favouring the company and also by sharing the dais with accused directors in various functions for canvassing about the schemes. In lieu of which they received alleged huge financial benefits in cash as well as in kind.”

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay