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29 Apr 2017

Enter, ED into Narada ring

TT, Calcutta, April 28: A fresh central flank has been opened in the Narada probe with the Enforcement Directorate starting a money laundering case against the 13 accused, most of whom are Trinamul leaders.
The entry of the second central agency, which came a day after BJP president Amit Shah ended his tour of Bengal, has spread concern in Trinamul that the scope of the investigation might be widened beyond the specific payoff case. The directorate has described its move as "routine", ruling out any link with Shah's visit.
The Narada tapes that show people resembling prominent Trinamul leaders accepting money are already under the CBI scanner following a Supreme Court directive. The CBI has lodged a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act and is investigating whether bribes had been taken.
The ED has lodged the case under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. "The ED is empowered to widen the scope of the investigation and dig deeper into the financial assets of the individuals and their sources of income," said a Trinamul insider.
An IPS officer echoed the politician, saying the money-laundering dimension would give the investigators the scope to go beyond the specific case. "The charges of money-laundering are far more serious and need a wider, more detailed investigation than merely proving charges of corruption based on a specific allegation," he said.
"The ED can summon anyone it believes to be the end-user of the Narada cash or has had any role in the creation of disproportionate assets of any of the accused," said a source.
According to established procedures, the ED can summon to each of the accused. If the summonses are disobeyed several times, warrants can be issued.
The ED action deepened the sense of foreboding in Trinamul because it came close on the heels of the CBI filing a supplementary chargesheet against two party MPs - Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Paul - in the Rose Valley deposit mobilisation scam case.
Trinamul sources said the senior leadership would conduct a meeting over the weekend with the 12 accused leaders from the party - the 13th is a police officer - to take stock of the situation and plan the course of action.
A senior Trinamul MLA said the leadership was hoping against hope that the Centre would desist from further complicating matters by deploying a second central agency on the Narada turf. "Amit Shah went back yesterday after three days of conspiracies in Bengal to weaken Trinamul. The very next day, the ED gets involved.... The BJP's game plan is quite obvious," he said.
But BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said the ED decision was "obvious" as the matter involved monetary transactions.
According to a senior leader, Mamata has instructed the leadership against issuing statements on the matter except along the lines that the party was being victimised by the BJP. "But she has to do something soon to defuse the ticking time bomb that Narada has become for us," he added.
ED officials, however, said it was "routine" to take up a case started by the CBI and it had happened quite often in the past.
"This is not the first case that the ED has taken up based on the findings of the CBI. To start a case, we always need to depend on the preliminary findings of a lead inquiring agency. We just did that in this case," said an official.

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