Crores kept in my flats without my knowledge: Arpita Mukherjee
Arpita Mukherjee—a close aide of arrested former West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee—has now claimed the money recovered from her two Kolkata flats does not belong to her. Mukherjee reportedly told the Enforcement Directorate (ED) during an interrogation that the Rs. 49.8 crore cash recovered from her flats in Tollygunge and Belgharia was kept there during her absence, and she had no idea about it.
- Chatterjee, the now-suspended senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader, is the latest in a long line of opposition leaders apprehended by the ED of late.
- His detention was earlier condemned by the TMC as a "ploy" by the BJP-led central government to "harass" political opponents.
- The BJP, however, claimed that the TMC had "sponsored large-scale irregularities" in the recruitment of teachers at all levels.
Similarly, Partha Chatterjee, who is at the center of the multi-crore West Bengal school recruitment scam, claimed on Sunday that he was the victim of a conspiracy. He stated the money and jewelry found during the ED raids last month didn't belong to him and only time would expose the conspirators. Chatterjee spoke to the media outside a hospital where he was being examined.
Last month, the ED recovered approximately Rs. 50 crore in cash and gold bars from properties related to Mukherjee, who is one of Partha Chatterjee's close associates. Notably, the probe agency is now looking into the money trail involved in the scam. To recall, Chatterjee was in charge of the education department when the alleged scam was carried out.
Meanwhile, Chatterjee has reportedly remained noncooperative and stubborn to investigators' queries, claiming that the large sum of money recovered was not his. Chatterjee's attitude has now spurred investigators to analyze his previous whereabouts, including getting CCTV footage from Belgharia's Club Town Heights apartment. When questioned by ED officers on Monday about the Rs. 49.8 crore cash, Chatterjee stated he had only heard about it.
According to ED officials, Chatterjee denied owning the money, and he wouldn't even disclose the source of the money or whether it came from a certain individual or a group. However, the ED officers are not convinced and are planning to probe the matter further.
Chatterjee's "unyielding" stance has also spurred the ED officials to analyze the pattern of acquisition of valuable properties, land, insurance policies, and shell firms with false addresses to gather secondary evidence of the suspected crime. Some ED sources reportedly revealed that authorities were also in touch with "fund agents" in several West Bengal districts and cities who raised money from clients on Chatterjee's orders.
To recall, Chatterjee and Mukherjee were arrested on July 23 after the ED found Rs. 21 crore in cash at Mukherjee's Tollygunge residence. The ED collected an additional Rs. 29 crore from her second residence during an 18-hour operation last Wednesday. Mukherjee allegedly informed the ED her home was utilized as a "mini-bank." Both accused will be held in jail until Wednesday (August 3).