The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday carried out simultaneous raids at the houses of around a dozen people, including two ministers, in connection with its investigation into the teacher recruitment scam in West Bengal and seized around Rs 20 crore in cash.
Sources in the central agency said the money was seized from the residence of a close associate of senior minister Partha Chatterjee who was questioned by the sleuths for over 11 hours.
The sleuths raided the residence of senior West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee in Kolkata and questioned him for over 11 hours in connection with its investigation into the teacher recruitment scam, an official of the agency said.
ED sleuths also visited another minister Paresh Adhikari's home in Cooch Behar district in the northern part of the state and talked to his family members. He is currently in Kolkata.
Besides, they carried out simultaneous raids in the houses of former advisor of the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC) Shanti Prasad Sinha, ex-president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education Kalyanmoy Ganguly and nine others, the official said.
The CBI, as directed by the Calcutta high court, is looking into the alleged irregularities committed in the recruitment of group-C and D staff as well as teachers in government-sponsored and aided schools on recommendations of the West Bengal School Service Commission. The ED is tracking the money trail in the scam.
"ED is carrying out search operations at various premises linked to recruitment scam in the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Primary Education Board," the agency said on its official Twitter handle.
The agency shared four photographs of piles of huge cash inside a room, without disclosing the quantity or the owner of the place.
At least 7-8 ED officials reached the Naktala residence of Chatterjee, the former education minister, at around 8.30 am with a few CRPF personnel keeping guard outside. They questioned him for more than 11 hours about the alleged scam.
At one point of time, the senior Trinamool Congress leader complained of uneasiness following which a team of doctors from the state-run SSKM Hospital were called by the ED sleuths, a source said.
"An ECG was conducted on the minister and his condition was stable," said the source, who is close to the minister.
During the interrogation, ED officials took away mobile phones of the minister's personal assistant as well as the security guards.
Chatterjee, currently industries and commerce minister, held the education portfolio when the scam was allegedly pulled off. He was interrogated by the CBI twice earlier, once on April 26 and then on May 18.
Raids were also conducted at the residence of one of Chatterjee's close associates at Pingla in Paschim Medinipur district, an official of the ED said, though he declined to comment whether the raid was in connection with the probe into the same scam or not.
The agency sleuths, who raided Adhikari's residence at Mekhliganj in Cooch Behar district questioned his family members including his daughter Ankita Adhikari in his absence, he stated.
Ankita recently lost her job as an assistant teacher at a government school where she was appointed through the SSC two years ago after it was found "illegal" by the high court.
Adhikari who had also been grilled by the CBI earlier told reporters in Kolkata he could not get in touch with his family over the phone.
"They did not intimate us about the visit to our house today. I am in Kolkata in connection with the July 21 Martyrs' Day rally of the TMC. Had I been around, I would have treated them to muri (puffed rice),” he said.
ED sleuths also carried out simultaneous raids at the residences of former chairman of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education, Manik Bhattacharya, as well as the board's interim-president Ratna Chakraborty Bagchi, who is also its secretary.
The TMC described the concerted raids as a ”ploy” by the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre to harass political opponents.
"This raid by ED, a day after the spectacular Martyrs' Day rally that created ripples all over the country, is nothing but an attempt to harass and intimidate leaders of the TMC.
”The CBI has already interrogated them (ministers) as part of a court directive and they are cooperating. Now, the ED is being invoked only to discredit them. The money laundering issue is being invented by the BJP," senior TMC leader and minister Firhad Hakim said.
The BJP, however, alleged that the TMC aided large-scale anomalies in the recruitment process of teachers at the primary, upper primary and secondary levels since coming to power in the state.
"TMC leaders and people close to them duped lakhs of qualified youths and handed over their jobs to ineligible ones. The CBI and ED are progressing on the right path. More skeletons will tumble out of the cupboard. The BJP has no role to play in the issue," the saffron party's national vice president, Dilip Ghosh, added.