On June 21, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) stated that in the alleged illegal Coal Levy Scam in Chhattisgarh, the agency had issued an eviction notice as a part of a money laundering probe and took possession of assets worth more than Rs 152 crore.
There are 91 assets which include both movable and immovable properties. The attached assets belong to the prime accused and coal trader Suryakant Tiwari, former Dy Secretary to Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Baghel, IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi and Sunil Agrawal.
The ED earlier provisionally attached properties under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in December, and now they have taken possession of these assets, which includes include flats, jewellery, coal washeries and plots. The ED gave the opportunity to all the accused and heard the arguments from both sides; after that, the Adjudicating Authority, established under the PMLA, attached the properties of the accused in this coal scam on June 1.
As per the statement, “Accordingly, ED has taken possession of 81 immovable properties and issued eviction notices in respect of ten immovable properties in accordance with the PMLA (taking possession of attached or frozen properties confirmed by the Adjudicating Authority) Rules, 2013”.
The ED’s press release further states, “Earlier, ED had also issued 2 Provisional Attachment Orders on 29.1.2023 & 8.5.2023 for properties worth Rs 68.88 Crore belonging to Ram Gopal Agrawal, Treasurer of Chhattisgarh Congress Party, Devendra Yadav, MLA from Bhilai Constituency, Chandradev Prasad Rai, MLA from Bhilaigarh Constituency, Suryakant Tiwari, Ms Saumya Chaurasia, Chhattisgarh Civil Service Officer, Sunil Agarwal & others which are being adjudicated by PMLA AA. ED has also taken note of the filing of another predicate offence in this scam and further investigation is going on.”
The investigation relates to “a massive scam in which illegal levy of Rs 25 was being extorted for every tonne of coal transported in Chhattisgarh by a cartel involving senior bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and middlemen”, the agency has alleged. As per the reports, this Coal Levy Scam used to generate around Rs 2-3 crores daily.
The agency alleged that a “grand conspiracy” was hatched in the natural resources-rich state to perpetrate a coal levy ‘scam’ in which Rs 540 crore has been “extorted” over the last two years. The money laundering case by ED stems from an Income Tax (IT) department complaint registered following the taxman’s raids in June 2022.
According to the investigative agency, they are claiming that the “main kingpin of this scam is Suryakant Tiwari who along with his associates entered into a criminal conspiracy to run a parallel system of extorting illegal levy on coal and were doing illegal and unaccounted cash movement”.
Earlier on May 9, the ED provisionally attached ninety immovable assets, including luxury vehicles, jewellery, and cash valued at over Rs 51 crore, in a money laundering case related to an illegal Chhattisgarh Coal Levy Scam.
These properties belonged to Chhattisgarh Congress MLAs Devender Yadav, Chandradev Prasad Rai and Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee treasurer Ramgopal Agarwal. The agency also provisionally attached the properties of IAS officer Ranu Sahu and coal trader Suryakant Tiwari, the prime accused in this alleged scam. Even the properties of Congress spokesperson RP Singh and local party leader Vinod Tiwari have also been attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002.
The ED said in a statement, “During the investigations, direct evidence of the financial linkages of the above persons with Suryakant Tiwari were established, and assets created by the layering of the proceeds of crime or equivalent assets have been identified for attachment proceedings under PMLA 2002”.
Before attaching the properties on February 20, the ED searched nearly a dozen Chhattisgarh locations. The places searched include residential and office premises of various Congress leaders naming Ramgopal Agarwal, Girish Devangan, RP Singh, Vinod Tiwari, and Sunny Agrawal, said sources.
Last year in December, ED detained the former Dy Secretary to Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Saumya Chaurasia based on WhatsApp chats which the IT department recovered. These chats showed that Saumya Chaurasia was sharing confidential information about the state government with Suryakant Tiwari, who was not working with her office on an official basis. So far, in the alleged Coal Levy Scam, ED has arrested nine people, including Saumya Chaurasia, Sameer Vishnoi, Suryakant Tiwari and his uncle Laxmikant Tiwari.