CBI examines TMC MP Abhishek's wife in coal pilferage case

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(Eds: Updating story) Kolkata, Feb 23 (PTI) A CBI team on Tuesday interrogated TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee's wife in connection with the coal pilferage case, making it the first instance of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjees relative being questioned in a graft case.

Abhishek Banerjee is the nephew of the chief minister and the interroagtion of his wife Rujira by the central investigating agency raised the political heat in the poll-bound state.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited her nephew's residence on Harish Mukeherjee Road in south Kolkata minutes before the CBI team landed there.

The central probe team reached the Diamond Harbour MP's residence just before noon and the examination went on for around an hour, CBI sources said.

The team left around 1.15 pm amid heavy police presence.

According to CBI sources, Rujira Banerjee had cooperated during the questioning.

The central probe body visited her residence after her reply to a CBI notice that she will be available for examination between 11 am and 3 pm on February 23. The notice had been hand delivered to her on Sunday.

The CBI had sought to examine her to ascertain the details of her bank transactions suspecting a connection to the proceeds of the illegal coal excavation money, sources said.

On Monday, the central investigating agency had examined Rujira's sister Menaka Gambhir in connection with the same case.

Two woman officers of the CBI visited Gambhir's residence off EM Bypass and had examined her for nearly three hours.

The developments came ahead of the assembly elections in the state due in Aril-May.

The ruling Trinamool Congress has called it 'political vendetta' by BJP, which is seeking to defeat it in the coming state poll.

The CBI had on November 28, 2020 carried out a massive search operation in a number of locations across West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh after registering a case against one Anup Majhi alias Lala.

It is alleged that Lala, the alleged kingpin of the scam, is involved in illegal mining and theft of coal from leasehold mines of ECL in Kunustoria and Kajora areas of West Barddhaman district, sources said.

The questioning by the CBI has triggered a fresh political slugfest in the state. TMC has accused BJP of using central agencies for its political gains and the saffron party has questioned Mamata Banerjee's visit to the MP and his family before the visit by the probe agency.

When CBI wanted to question the then police commissioner Rajiv Kumar in 2019, the chief imnister sat on a dharna. When CBI is scheduled to question Abhishek Banerjees wife, she went to his residence. This only proves there is something wrong, something to hide, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.

The TMC hit back saying the saffron party is depending on central agencies to win the coming state poll.

The BJP has lost the elections and it knows it. That is why it is using central agencies in order to win the coming assembly polls. This is nothing but political vendetta,' TMC leader Tapas Roy said.

'You tend to use the CBI and ED, when you dont have the capability to fight politically, Roy, also a member of the Mamata Banerjee ministry said accusing the BJP.

The CPI(M)-Congress alliance said CBIs 'over activeness' before the state polls is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from the failures of the central and the state governments.

For the last few years whenever there is an election, the CBI becomes overactive. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls there was the Rajiv Kumar fiasco. Now ahead of the assembly polls this new drama, CPI(M) Politburo member Mohammed Salim said. PTI DC PNT KK KK KK