The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday conducted fresh raids at multiple premises in Chhattisgarh, including that of an IAS officer, and other locations in connection with its ongoing money laundering probe into an alleged coal levy scam in the state, officials said.
The searches are being undertaken in state capital Raipur, Korba, Durg and Ranchi in Jharkhand and Bengaluru (Karnataka). The ED teams are being provided security by armed personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
Premises linked to Anbalagan P– secretary of water resources department, tourism and culture– were also covered.
The 2004 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer has earlier served as the secretary of mineral resources department in the incumbent Congress government.
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His wife Alarmelmangai D is also an IAS officer (2004 batch) and is posted as secretary of urban administration and development department and finance department. She has earlier served as the Director, geology and mining, in the Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel government.
Some politicians, their linked businesses and some coal traders are also being raided, officials said.
The federal investigation agency had launched a probe in this case in October last year after it raided another IAS officer of the state, Sameer Vishnoi, and some businessmen.
The investigation relates to ”a massive scam in which illegal levy of Rs 25 was being extorted for every tonne of coal transported in Chhattisgarh by a cartel involving senior bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and middlemen”, the agency has alleged.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s deputy secretary Saumya Chaurasia, Vishnoi, coal trader and alleged ”main kingpin of the scam” Suryakant Tiwari, his uncle Laxmikant Tiwari and another coal businessman Sunil Agrawal have been arrested in this case till now. The ED had claimed in a statement that Chaurasia, Vishnoi and some coal traders allegedly linked to them ”used” their relatives to create ”benami” assets after it attached their properties worth more than Rs 150 crore in December.
The agency alleged that a ”grand conspiracy” was hatched in the natural resources rich state to perpetrate a coal levy ‘scam’ in which Rs 540 crore has been ”extorted” over the last two years.
The money laundering case stems from an Income Tax department complaint that was registered following raids by the taxman in June, 2022.
The agency has called Suryakant Tiwari as the ”main henchman” at the ground-level who allegedly deployed his employees in various regions to extort money from coal transporters and industrialists and his team was physically coordinating with lower level government functionaries and coal transporters and representatives of user companies. ”Since his employees were spread across the state, they maintained WhatsApp groups, excel sheets of each coal delivery order and the extorted amounts and shared them with Suryakant Tiwari, who in turn maintained detailed hand written diaries of the incoming bribe amounts and their utilisation for purchase of benami lands, payment of bribes, payments for political expenditure etc,” the agency alleged.
”This kind of systemic extortion was not possible without the knowledge and active participation of the state machinery,” it said.
The fact that it (alleged extortion racket) ran uninterrupted without a single FIR and collected around Rs 500 crore in two years, clearly indicates that all the accused persons were acting in a concerted manner at the instructions of person(s) at the highest level, having command and control over the state machinery, the ED said.