The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is likely to act against Member of Parliament from West Bengal, Abhishek Banerjee, who is also the nephew of state Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) president, Mamata Banerjee. The ED investigation will be into charges of Abhishek Banerjee’s alleged involvement in money laundering.
ED sources told this newspaper that the agency had gathered “substantial evidence” against Abhishek Banerjee, who is MP from Diamond Harbour constituency. Banerjee did not respond to this correspondent’s queries and disconnected the call. He also did not respond to text messages and email sent to him seeking his version on the matter. Senior TMC leader Partha Chatterjee, who is considered close to Mamata Banerjee and who is also the Education and Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the state, told The Sunday Guardian, “The matter is sub-judice and we would not comment on it.”
The ED is investigating the Narada case, which was a sting operation carried out by a journalist in 2011 for an English news magazine, and was placed in the public domain in 2016, just before the West Bengal Assembly elections that year. The sting videos had shown high-ranking officials and politicians of the TMC allegedly taking money to do official favours to a fictitious company.
Following this, the ED had registered a money laundering case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), against a dozen TMC leaders. The name “Abhishek” appears thrice in the FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the case. In the first instance, only “Abhishek” has been mentioned. The second time it is mentioned as “Abhishek Bandhopadhyay”, and finally as “Abhishek Banerjee”. “Banerjee” is the Anglicised version of the Bengali “Bandhopadhyay”, rather “Bandopadhyay”.
“The video footages of the Narada ‘sting’, where a number of TMC leaders, including MPs and ministers, were seen on camera, allegedly taking money, have been examined by the Chandigarh Forensic Laboratory, which has said that the visuals and the audio recorded in the tapes are genuine. We have found sufficient evidence against Abhishek Banerjee and other TMC leaders. We are waiting for the top brass of the ED to give their nod and we will proceed with the case. Once we get their nod, action will begin, including issuing show cause notices for further corroboration and attachment of the property of Abhishek Banerjee and other TMC leaders,” said a source in the ED.
ED officials involved in the investigation said that they had enough evidence regarding the alleged inflow of unaccounted for money into Abhishek Banerjee’s bank account.
After the Narada sting videos were released, the case was registered on the basis of an FIR filed by the CBI on the direction of the Calcutta High Court against 12 TMC leaders, including Abhishek Banerjee, and an IPS officer. The Enforcement Directorate’s FIR, called Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), has been registered against 14 entities, including a category of unknown persons, apart from the 13 mentioned in the CBI compliant.