The Enforcement Directorate has attached moveable and immoveable assets, including flats, jewellery, coal washeries and plots, worth around Rs 152.31 crore allegedly belonging to
arrested Chhattisgarh government bureaucrats – Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s Deputy Secretary Saumya Chaurasia, IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi and others in the coal levy scam money laundering case.
Initial investigation has revealed that Chaurasia, Vishnoi and some coal traders allegedly used their relatives’ names to create benami assets.
The ED had collected incriminating evidence during its searches at more than 75 locations, including the mining departments at DC offices of Korba and Raighad. ‘We have recorded statements of around 100 individuals and the investigation has revealed that as part of a grand conspiracy, policy changes were made and director mining issued a government order on July 15, 2020, to modify an existing efficient online system of issuance of transport permits, to introduce a manual layer where coal users were forced to apply for no objection certificate (NOC) with the state mining officers, said a spokesperson of the ED on Saturday.
‘Armed with this government order, the extortion at the rate of Rs 25 per tonne of transported coal, started in earnest. Suryakant Tiwari was the main henchman at the ground level who deployed his employees in various regions to extort money from coal transporters and industrialists.
His team was physically coordinating with lower-level government functionaries, coal transporters, and representatives of the user companies, the spokesperson said. This kind of systemic extortion was not possible without the knowledge and active participation of the state machinery, he said. Currently, the agency is probing the entire gamut of transactions in relation to the extortion racket.
‘The investigation has revealed that at least Rs 540 crore was extorted in the last two years. The ED has analysed thousands of hand-written diary entries. The ED has analysed seized WhatsApp chats and statements to corroborate the diary entries, the spokesperson added.