The Central Bureau of Investigation has frozen fixed deposits worth Rs 16.97 crore allegedly belonging to Trinamool Congress leader Anubrata Mondal and his family members in connection with a case of cattle smuggling across the Indo-Bangladesh border, officials said Wednesday.
The agency detected the fixed deposits in State Bank of India, Axis Bank and Bank of India during the questioning of several close aides of Mondal and other witnesses during its ongoing probe in the case, they said.
The probe has found that Mondal allegedly gave cash to his aides who used to deposit it in bank accounts and later set up fixed deposits in his name, they said.
The central agency kept the heat on Mondal and grilled his accountant Manish Kothari for over two hours at its temporary camp office in Bolpur.
The agency also recorded statements of two bank officials of the bank where the Mondal has accounts, the CBI officials said.
The CBI suspects that several bank accounts belonging to Mondal's daughter Sukanya were used for financial transactions in the scam, they said.
A four member agency team on Wednesday visited Mondal's Nichupatti residence in Bolpur to question Sukanya, a primary school teacher, but left within 10 minutes after she refused to talk to them.
The team had gone to question Sukanya about the alleged wealth accumulated by her which does not look justified going by her salary and profession.
The team returned after she said she was not in an "emotionally good shape" due to the recent death of her mother and arrest of her father.
The CBI officials said she did not cooperate in the investigation.
Under scanner are several properties in the name of Sukanya, who is also director in some companies.
Mondal (62), who is currently TMC's Birbhum district president and member of the party's national working committee, rose to prominence in the 11 years of the TMC regime in Bengal, mostly for his audacious statements and browbeating.
Born in 1960 to a family of farmers in Birbhum, Mondal, popularly known as 'Keshto', the eldest of five siblings, started his career as a fish trader in Suri.
The agency had arrested Mondal last Thursday from his residence in West Bengal's Bolpur after he had skipped his scheduled appearance before the central probe agency twice in three days, an official said.
The CBI has alleged that Vikas Mishra, brother of absconding TMC leader Vinay Mishra, and Mondal provided protection to associates of alleged cattle smuggler Enamul Haq who used to buy animals at a market in Ilambazar, the officials said.
The smugglers used to ferry animals from Ilambazar to Indo-Bangla border under the alleged protection of Mondal and Mishra from state enforcement agencies, they said.
They used services of some BSF officials, including charge sheeted Satish Kumar, to get these cattle smuggled to Bangladesh, the officials said.
"It was also alleged that the accused persons were organizing and patronizing large scale cattle smuggling to a neighbouring country and collecting huge money from other persons," the CBI said in a statement.
The agency said it was revealed that the accused procured a huge number of cattle from Ilambazar 'pashuhat' and ensured safe passage for transportation of cattle to international border.
"The CBI filed a charge sheet on February 6, 2021 against seven accused and further filed three supplementary charge sheets on February 23, 2021, November 24, 2021 and August 8, 2022 against several other accused before the competent court. Further investigation was continuing to unearth larger conspiracy," a CBI spokesperson had said.