In a recent development in the coal mining scam in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA Saokat Molla has failed to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday in connection with an investigation into the alleged scam.
According to the CBI official, the MLA from West Bengal's Canning (East), Saokat Molla claimed that he had a few prior engagements, because of which he could not appear before the agency for questioning.
"Molla has mailed to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday night expressing his inability to appear before the agency's sleuths on Friday and sought at least 15 days time for being available for questioning," a CBI official told PTI.
Adding further he said, "The legislator said he had prior political and administrative engagements, and his lawyer will visit the CBI office today on his behalf."
It is pertinent to mention that the CBI on Thursday sent a summon to Molla to appear at its Kolkata office at 11 AM on Friday for questioning over the alleged coal mining scam. He was asked the agency to bring with him documents related to his bank transactions and business. Notably, his name appeared after questioning those involved in the scam.
Reportedly, the coal belt of Asansol was the base of the smuggling racket but the smuggled coal was illegally sent to different parts of West Bengal. Brick kilns in TMC MLA Molla's Canning (East) assembly constituency were also allegedly used to receive the smuggled coal. Denying his involvement in the alleged coal scam, Molla called the allegations a "political conspiracy" against him.
Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee was declared a "potential accused" by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on May 17 in the West Bengal coal scam case and said that he needs to be interrogated in the national capital as it would be difficult to conduct an inquiry in Kolkata.
However, the Supreme Court said that it's open for the ED to require the attendance of the TMC leader in its Kolkata office and issued a notice to Commissioner of Police, Kolkata, Vineet Kumar Goyal to provide adequate security.
Banerjee had skipped his scheduled appearance before the central agency. For the fresh round of questioning, the agency had asked the top court to allow Banerjee's interrogation in Delhi.
In an FIR registered by CBI in 2020, the agency had alleged a multi-crore coal pilferage scam in connection with Eastern Coalfields Ltd mines in the state's Kunustoria and Kajora areas in and around Asansol. The case was registered against several TMC leaders, unknown officials of ECL, Railways, CISF and other departments and others under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The ED took up the probe later, and it was revealed that "large proceeds of crime" were generated and laundered due to illegal coal mining near railway areas.