CBI summons TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee's brother-in-law in illegal coal-mining case

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New Delhi, Mar 12 (PTI) The CBI has summoned TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee's brother-in-law in connection with a case of alleged illegal coal mining from the mines of the Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) in West Bengal's Asansol, involving the 'kingpin' of the racket, Anup Manjhi, officials said on Friday.

Ankush Arora, the husband of Banerjee's sister-in-law Menaka Gambhir, and his father Pawan Arora have been asked to appear before the investigating officer of the case on March 15, they said.

The central probe agency recently questioned Banerjee's wife Rujira and sister-in-law Menaka Gambhir in the case pertaining to alleged illegal coal mining and pilferage from the mines of the ECL, a public sector undertaking (PSU).

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is suspecting dubious financial transactions, which has triggered the questioning of Banerjee's sister-in-law and her family members, the officials said.

During its probe, the CBI has been able to link the mystery of stolen coal found by ECL officials from a railway siding in Asansol in 2019 with Manjhi, they added.

The central agency, during the questioning of various officials from West Bengal and the ECL, found out that as against the earlier claims of 500 tonnes, nearly 1,800 tonnes of stolen coal were found dumped near the railway siding in Asansol, which was meant to be gradually sold in the market by Manjhi.

It has also surfaced that the ECL officials had detected that the 1,800 tonnes of coal were illegally mined and stolen from the mines of the PSU, and reported the matter to the local authorities, but no concrete action was taken.

The stolen coal was believed to be linked to a Kolkata-based businessman, but it is now alleged that it belonged to Manjhi, the officials said.

West Bengal is set to witness an eight-phase Assembly election starting March 27 and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading a vigorous campaign in the state to oust the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), which had secured consecutive electoral wins in 2011 and 2016 under its leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Abhishek Banerjee, the Lok Sabha MP from the Diamond Harbour constituency and the nephew of the chief minister, wields considerable influence in the party and has been leading the TMC's counter-attack in the run-up to the Assembly polls.

The multi-crore-rupee coal-pilferage scam is related to the ECL mines in West Bengal's Kunustoria and Kajora areas.

The CBI had registered an FIR in November last year against Anup Manjhi alias Lala, the alleged kingpin of the pilferage racket, ECL general managers Amit Kumar Dhar and Jayesh Chandra Rai, ECL security chief Tanmay Das, Kunustoria area security inspector Dhananjay Rai and Kajor area security in-charge Debashish Mukherjee.

Dhar, the then Kunustoria area general manager, is now posted at Pandaveswar, while Rai is the general manager for the Kajor area.

It is alleged that Manjhi is involved in illegal mining and theft of coal from the leasehold mines of ECL in the Kunustoria and Kajora areas, the officials said. PTI ABS RC