The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has questioned Alankar Sawai, a close aide of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in connection with a money laundering case lodged against arrested Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale for allegedly misusing around Rs 1 crore, collected through crowd funding.
The ED has learnt that Gokhale had collected around Rs 80 lakhs through crowd funding using an online platform, whereas cash amounting to Rs 23.54 lakhs was also deposited into his account.
IANS is in the possession of ED documents which suggests that the probe agency doubts his claims.
When the ED asked Gokhale about the Rs 23.54 lakhs, he said the amount was given to him in cash by Sawai.
“We asked him as to why Alankar Sawai will pay him in cash? Gokhale replied that only Sawai could answer this question. We asked whether there was any written agreement between Sawai and him in respect of Social media work, Gokhale said that it was only verbal agreement,” ED sources said.
Sawai was called to join the investigation on several occasions.
The sources claimed that he was questioned on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
During the questioning, Sawai denied that any payment was made to Gokhale.
The ED sources said that there is no proof as of now to prove that he made the payment and they will confront him together with Gokhale.
“The money was deposited in November 2021 whereas he joined the Trinamool Congress in August 2021. In such case why he will promote Congress party? This is the reason we doubt his ststement,” the sources said.
Funds raised through the campaign “Support Saket in his transparency battle” were used for his sustenance and other social cause activities.
The ED has also alleged that the funds were used for helping his father Suhas Gokhale with his health and legal expenses relating to his promotion.
The agency asked him to provide them a list of freelancers engaged by him to amplify his work, to this Saket Gokhale stated that he did not remember the names.
He also said that he even didn’t know how much amount he had paid to freelancers.
When the ED asked him about the investment in share market, Saket Gokhale stated that he invested the funds raised through crowdfunding in the sharemarket with the hope that the return on investment would sustain him in the long term without having to raise additional funds
Saket Gokhale’s statement was recorded on January 19, 2022, wherein initially he said that he had informed to the donors right from the beginning that the crowd funding is for his sustenance so that he can carry his work full time without having to take up a job.
However when he was shown his post shared on May 23, 2019, seeking support and contribution for campaign ‘SaketversusModi’ in which nowhere he had mentioned that purpose of funds was for his sustenance, he backtracked from his earlier statement by saying that in this campaign he had not raised funds for his sustenance but for later campaigns were for his sustenance.
(Atul Krishan can be approached at firstname.lastname@example.org)