Kolkata: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday arrested West Bengal ministerJyotipriyoMallickinamoneylaunderingcaselinkedtoan alleged multi-corerationdistributionscaminthe state, officials of the central agency said.
Theministerwas apprehended under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act inthe early hours of Friday following over 17-18 hours of questioning, they said.
EDofficials saidMallickwas taken from his homeinthe Salt Lake area on the outskirts of Kolkatatothe central agency’s office here around 3:30 am.
He will be produced before a local court where theEDwill seek his custody, they said.
Mallick, who is a diabetic patient and has several other ailments, was takentoan ESI hospitalinJokainthe southern part of the city, where he is undergoing medical tests, anEDofficer said.
“Medical tests of the stateministerare being conducted. These are routine tests. We will take himtothe court where we will seek his custody,” theEDofficer told PTI.
“I am a victim of a great conspiracy,” the TMCministersaid after beingarrestedbyEDinconnection with the alleged ration distribution scam.
Mallickalso alleged that the “conspiracy was hatched by the BJP and its leader Suvendu Adhikari”, a former colleagueinthe TMC party.
“It is a conspiracy. The BJP is actively engaginginplotting nefarious schemes against us,” saidMallick, who is currently state forestministerand previously held the portfolio of food and supplies.
TheEDhad earlierarresteda confidant of theministerBakibur Rahman whose remand is ending this week.
Sources said that the central agency may seektoconfront the two with each other’s version of eventsinthecase.
Mallick’sarrestis the second instance of a TMC cabinetministerbeing apprehended by central agenciesinconnection with corruptioncases.
Last year, former stateministerPartha Chatterjee wasarrestedby theEDinacaserelatedtoa school jobscam.
The agency had launched searches atMallick’s residences on Thursday. It also raided his ancestral house on Amherst Streetincentral Kolkata. The allegedscampertainstoreported irregularitiesinthe public distribution system and alsointhe distribution of food grains during the Covid lockdowns.
Earlier on Thursday, ChiefMinisterMamata Banerjee threatenedtofile a police complaint if anything happenedtoMallickduring the questioning as he was unwell and had several medical ailments.
Banerjee also termed the raids by theEDagainst opposition leaders as “a dirty political game” by the BJP.
The Trinamool Congress, which had previously termed the raids atMallick’s residence as “vendetta politics”, is yettoissue an official response following hisarrest.
Asked aboutMallick’sarrest, state Food and SuppliesMinisterRathin Ghosh said, “It won’t be righttodraw any conclusion now when the investigation is still on. Let the investigation be over.”
Party leader and stateministerShashi Panja also criticised the raids atMallick’s residences, asserting that “this is an attack on the culture ofBengalat the time of ‘Bijoya Dasami’ and is nothing but vendetta politics”.
Inresponsetothearrestof the stateminister, the BJP said it was “expected” considering the pace of the investigationinthecase.
BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “Thearrestwas anticipated after the revelations made by one of his associates, who was apprehended a few days ago. It has once again been proven that the TMC is deeply miredincorruption.”
TakingtoX, formerly, Twitter, leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari said, “Henceforth, the meeting of the state cabinet will be convened inside the jail.”
Inthe past one year, two other MLAs and TMC Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal have beenarrestedinconnection with school jobscamsand cattle smugglingcasesby central agencies.
(Published 27 October 2023, 04:33 IST)