Kolkata, 5th January 2024: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has delved into the depths of the Public Distribution System (PDS) scam, unraveling a complex web of money laundering and illicit activities. The investigation, initiated based on FIRs filed by the West Bengal Police, exposed various private individuals unlawfully possessing PDS ration and engaging in bogus paddy procurement.
Three key modus operandi were identified during the ED’s probe:
1. Rice Mills Collaboration: Several rice mills allegedly collaborated with PDS distributors, dealers, and others, diverting PDS atta/wheat flour and causing significant losses to government funds and beneficiaries. Approximately 25.55% of the total atta meant for PDS distributors was siphoned off.
2. Atta Buyback Scheme: Rice mills repurchased atta from various dealers through intermediaries, blending it with fresh PDS atta, leading to the alleged siphoning off of wheat and compromising the quality of the delivered atta.
3. Fake Paddy Procurement: Proceeds of crime were generated through fake paddy procurement, with millers manipulating cooperative societies by using the names of their employees and relatives as “fake farmers.”
As the investigation progressed, it was discovered that individuals laundered the proceeds of crime through various companies, invested in immovable properties, and transferred part of the funds to entities allegedly under the control of Jyoti Priya Mallick.
Asset Attachments and Arrests:
On December 11, 2023, the ED provisionally attached 101 immovable properties and Rs. 2.89 Crore (bank account balance). An additional Rs. 16.87 Crore in certain bank accounts was frozen earlier.
Jyoti Priya Mallick, currently the Minister-In-Charge of Forest Affairs and Non-Conventional and Renewable Energy Sources in the Government of West Bengal, and Bakibur Rahaman were arrested under section 19 of PMLA, 2002. Both are presently in judicial custody.
The ED also filed its first Prosecution Complaint (PC) against Bakibur Rahaman, NPG Rice Mill Pvt. Ltd., Jyoti Priya Mallick, and others on December 12, 2023, related to the alleged siphoning of PDS ration, mixing of wheat flour, and bogus paddy procurement. The Ld. Special PMLA Court, Kolkata, acknowledged the PC on the same day.
Incident on January 5, 2024:
Further investigation revealed that Jyoti Priya Mallick laundered proceeds of crime through associates involved in the foreign exchange business.
During a search operation at the residence of Sahajahan Sheikh, Convenor of TMC Sandesh Khali, North 24 Parganas, the ED team faced violent resistance. The mob, suspected to be instigated by Sheikh and his associates, attacked ED officials with weapons, resulting in injuries to three officers. The mob also damaged ED vehicles and stole personal belongings of officials.
A formal complaint has been lodged with the jurisdictional police for the registration of an FIR and necessary action against the culprits involved in the attack. The investigation continues, delving into the intricate layers of the PDS scam.