Monday, July 15, 2024

With polls round the corner, CBI and ED get active in the case of Gehlot’s brother

Opposition leaders across the country are alleging that they are being targeted by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Joining this chorus is Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot whose brother’s place in Jodhpur was amongst those raided by the CBI last year.

The agency conducted searches at multiple places across Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal and Gehlot’s brother Agrasen was one amongst them. Sources said that Agrasen, a businessman, was booked for alleged corruption along with others, including some government officials. He is already facing a money laundering probe by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a case of alleged diversion of fertiliser during 2007-09.

These CBI raids are separate from the one being probed by the ED.

Earlier, amid a political crisis in Rajasthan in July 2020, when former deputy CM Sachin Pilot had revolted against Gehlot and the BJP was allegedly trying to cash in on the situation, the ED had raided Agrasen’s premises in the fertiliser diversion case.

On July 22, 2020, the ED conducted raids at 13 places in Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat and Delhi in connection with the case. The premises included those associated with Agrasen Gehlot and his company Anupam Krishi.

Officials said that the alleged scam concerns Muriate of Potash (MoP), which is imported by Indian Potash Limited (IPL) and distributed to farmers through companies at subsidised rates. The IPL is concerned with import, promotion and marketing of potash in the entire country, which is provided at subsidised rates to farmers

Between 2007 and 2009, Agrasen Gehlot, who was an authorised dealer for IPL, bought MoP at subsidised rates and sold it to a few companies, which in turn exported it to Malaysia and Singapore in the guise of industrial salt, instead of distributing it to farmers.

MoP is in the list of items which are banned for export. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had unearthed the scam in 2012-13.

ED sources said Gehlot and his company were eventually imposed a penalty of Rs 60 crore in connection with the case. It was alleged that around 35,000 metric tonnes of MoP worth about Rs 130 crore was diverted.

The central agency decided to register a case of money laundering after the customs department filed a charge sheet in the case, the day when the Income Tax Department raided three Rajasthan based business groups said to be close to the CM. The raids were carried out in the middle of a political slugfest between Gehlot and Pilot.

Last year, when the CBI conducted raids at Agrasen’s place, Ashok Gehlot hit out at the Central government over this raid, and said this will not panic him but will ultimately harm the BJP only.

Gehlot termed the raid as an act of revenge by the Centre for his recent activism in Delhi.

Before this CBI raid at Agrasen Gehlot’s residence in Jodhpur in connection with a corruption case, the Enforcement Directorate too had raided his place in 2020.

“If I am active in Delhi or have participated in this movement for Rahul Gandhi, then why take revenge on my brother? When there was a political crisis here in our government in 2020, at that time also the ED had raided my brother’s place,” Ashok Gehlot had said while speaking to the media at that time after returning from the national capital.

He said, “It’s not fair. We are not going to panic because of this. No member of my family is involved in politics. It is beyond comprehension that first they conducted an ED raid, and now a raid by the CBI. Even the people of the country have no taste for this. The loss will only be of the BJP and of the Central government. The more they harass the people of the country, the more adverse impact they will suffer,” he said

He added, “On June 13, time was sought, on 15 the case was registered, and on June 17 there were raids. What is this approach, it is beyond comprehension?” Gehlot was in Delhi for several days to participate in the Congress’ protest against the questioning of Rahul Gandhi by the ED in a money laundering case and hence he termed the raid as part of vendetta politics.

Meanwhile, as the assembly elections approach, speculation is rife that more ED/CBI raids will be reported in Rajasthan.

In Rajasthan, this trend has already started and as polls approach, such raids will gain momentum, said state minister Pratap Khachriyawas.

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