Abhishek Banerjee: BJP's target in Bengal.

Abhishek Banerjee: BJP's target in Bengal.

CBI questions Abhishek’s sister-in-law Menka in coal smuggling case

Abhishek Banerjee's wife responds to CBI notice; ready to be quizzed

Agency Report | Kolkata | 22 February, 2021 | 11:00 PM

A team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recorded the statement of Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee's sister-in-law Menka Gambhir in connection with its probe into the illegal coal smuggling case

According to CBI officials, an eight-member team of the CBI led by Investigation officer Umesh Kumar along with two women officers arrived at the residence of Gambhir and recorded her statement for over two and half hours.

CBI sources said that the agency questioned her about few banking transactions.

The development comes a day after CBI summoned Gambhir on Sunday to record her statement in the case, which it registered in November last year.

Meanwhile, Abhishek’s wife Rujira Banerjee, who was delivered a summon at her residence on Sunday afternoon also responded to the CBI and agreed to be questioned on Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at her residence.

Abhishek is the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee.

The CBI action comes ahead of the high octane Assembly polls scheduled later this year where the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP are in a bitter contest.

Following the CBI action, Abhishek on Sunday said that he has full faith in the law of land, but asserted that he would not be cowed down.

“At 2 p.m. today, the CBI served a notice in the name of my wife. We have full faith in the law of the land. However, if they think they can use these ploys to intimidate us, they are mistaken. We are not the ones who would ever be cowed down,” he said in a tweet.

Reacting to the development, Trinamool Congress spokesperson Kunal Ghosh had said that there is nothing new in it as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying everything to unseat the Trinamool Congress-led government in West Bengal.

“They are using central agencies to malign the image of Abhishek Banerjee ahead of the state Assembly elections. The CBI notice is just a step towards that,” he said.

The CBI had registered a case of illegal theft of coal last year in November. The agency had registered a case against coal mafia Anup Majhi alias Lala, his deputy J. Mondal, and other unidentified people, including some employees of the Eastern Coalfields Ltd. and of other Central government offices. It was alleged that Majhi was involved in coal theft from the leasehold mines of the ECL in Kunustoria and Kajora areas.

On November 28 last year, the CBI had conducted raids at 45 locations in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh in connection with the coal smuggling racket.

On February 19, the CBI team carried out searches at 13 locations in four districts of West Bengal, including the premises of coal mafia Jaidev Mondal.

According to sources, Rujira asked the CBI investigators to visit her Harish Mukherjee Road residence between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Rujira said that she was unaware of the reason for which she was being called for questioning and the matter of the investigation. Although there were CBI searches earlier in the day at her sister’s residence in connection with its probe into the illegal coal smuggling case.

A five-member team of CBI’s anti-corruption branch went to Abhishek Banerjee’s south Kolkata residence on Sunday afternoon and served the notice. The Trinamool second-in-command’s wife was summoned for interrogation.

Sources said that Rujira was not present at the building named Santiniketan when the CBI team arrived there around 2 p.m. on Sunday. A huge contingent of police was deployed around the house following the CBI raid.

Earlier, the CBI had also summoned Rujira’s sister Menka Gambhir for interrogation. A CBI team, along with lady officials, officials arrived at Menka’s high-rise residential complex at Panchashyar on Monday, at around 12 noon.

The team, led by Umesh Kumar, had to wait at the main entrance for some time till they got the permission to go up. Menka stays at Upohar Luxury Complex (Tower-3) near Kolkata’s EM Bypass.

Abhishek and Rujira got married in 2012 and have two children.

Earlier on November 28 last year, the CBI’s anti-corruption branch had conducted marathon raids in as many as 45 different locations in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh in connection with a coal-smuggling racket.

The federal agency had also raided the offices and homes of kingpin Anup Majhi, alias Lala, in Asansol, Durgapur, and Raniganj in Burdwan district, as well as at Bishnupur in Kolkata’s adjoining South 24-Parganas district.

That time they had also carried out search operations in some of the houses of Majhi’s associates. Majhi is the alleged kingpin of the illegal coal operation that was running in the open cast colliery belts along the Bengal-Jharkhand border.

On February 2, the investigating team of CBI also went to Andal area and visited some open-cast mines at Kajora. They had conducted a detail probe into the illegal mining syndicate, carrying out raids in Asansol-Durgapur belt to collate more information about the illegal network. (IANS)