A CBI team descended on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek’s residence on Sunday morning and summoned his wife Rujira Narula and sister-in-law Menaka Gambhir in connection with investigations into a coal scam.
The allegation is that the coal mafia had paid regular kickbacks to leaders of Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress. The money was allegedly channelled through Vinay Mishra, who is the general secretary of the Trinamool's youth wing, which is headed by Abhishek Banerjee. On December 31, the CBI had raided the home of Vinay Mishra, who is now on the run. The agency has already issued an NBW against him.
Also under the CBI scanner are alleged huge transfers of foreign currency in two bank accounts of TMC MP Abhishek’s wife -- one in London and the other in Thailand.
According to sources, the CBI officials had spoken with Rujira over telephone and wanted to question her on Sunday itself in the afternoon. When the CBI officials landed at the Banerjee doorstep, no one in the family was present on the premises and the CBI officials left a phone number stating that Rujira should contact them soon after returning.
According to CBI sources, while handing over the summons to Abhishek’s sister-in-law Menaka at her residence, the CBI officials stated that they will visit her again on February 22 at 11 am.
Notably, in November, the CBI had registered an FIR against Anup Manjhi alias Lala, one of the suspected kingpins in a coal scam. Lala is also said to be a close aide of the TMC’s Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee.
At the heart of the summons is BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s claim at a public meeting on January 25, where he produced a bank account statement of Kasikorn Bank in Thailand and claimed that Lala had transferred several crores of rupees into Rujira’s account.
Contesting Suvendu’s claim, Abhishek Banerjee had declared at a political rally on February 5 that his wife only has a bank account in Kolkata and nowhere else.
It is pertinent to mention that in 2019, Rujira was detained at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport for carrying gold without a declaration.
Reacting to the summons, Abhishek took to social media and wrote that this was a pre-meditated move.
“At 2pm 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 be cowed down,” read the tweet of the TMC Diamond Harbour MP.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh claimed that the summons to Mamata’s nephew’s wife were a tit-for-tat response to a special court’s summons to Union Home Minister Amit Shah in response to a defamation case filed by Abhishek Banerjee in 2018.
A special court designated for MPs and MLAs had asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah to be present before it on February 22 over his alleged comments about the ruling Trinamool Congress at a public meeting in 2018.
The Left and the Congress however stated that there was nothing ‘surprising’ about the developments.
The pilferage of coal from the open cast mines of Eastern Coalfields in the Dhanbad-Asansol belt has been a longstanding investigation. The scammers collect coal from these mines and smuggled it out, resulting in loss of revenue to the Centre and the states, running into thousands of crores of rupees.