Mysterious witnesses leave a hole in CBI’s Bengal cattle smuggling case
Despite glaring faux pas in its charge sheet, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is confident that it has built a watertight case against TMC ‘baahubali’ Anubrata Mondal, the prime accused in the multi-crore cattle smuggling probe.
The agency claimed to have unearthed the modus operandi followed by the TMC heavyweight to convert black money to white and got a hawala link through which money was routed from Bangladesh to Mondal and others.
Apart from politicians of the ruling TMC, senior BSF and Bengal police officials too “benefitted” from the hawala transactions, CBI sources told The Federal.
Diary of hawala operator
Bangladesh-based cattle smugglers used to send “protection money” to influential politicians and officials of security forces through the Sana brothers, two hawala operators, sources added.
The CBI seized a diary of one of them, Manoj Sana. The diary contained entries related to hawala transactions and names of those to whom payments were made.
The names of arrested former BSF commandant Satish Kumar and Mondal’s Bengal police bodyguard Sehgal Hossain also featured in the diary of Manoj, who used to run the racket at the behest of Enamul Haque, the kingpin of the cross-border cattle smuggling operation, it was alleged.
The CBI, in its 35-page fourth supplementary chargesheet in the case, mentioned the hawala connection without giving details. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) would further probe the hawala angle, as it is better equipped to deal with such financial crimes, a CBI official said.
Sukanya Mondal’s ties
To track the money trail, the ED has summoned Sukanya Mondal, a primary school teacher and Anubrata’s daughter, to appear before it in New Delhi on October 27. She has ill-gotten assets worth around ₹100 crore, the CBI said. It also wants to take Hossain to New Delhi to grill him about the hawala racket.
Sukanya Mondal owned two companies, namely ANM Agrochem Foods and the Neer Developer Pvt Ltd. Over the past four years, the two companies received around ₹28 crore from either another company or their own directors, the CBI investigation found.
The CBI sources said the two companies were used as fronts to convert black money to white. During the period from 2018 to 2022 when Sukanya’s companies received funds, the arrested TMC leader handed over in tranches ₹5. 92 crore to a retired bank official, Subrata Biswas, the sources added.
Biswas initially deposited a portion of the money in his account. Another portion of the money was deposited in the current accounts of a Shantiniketan-based upscale resort. From these accounts, money was later transferred to Sukanya Mondal and other relatives and aides. Anubrata Mondal also parked his money with local promoters, the CBI sleuths claimed.
‘Crorepati’ domestic helps
To convert the black money to white, Mondal even turned his domestic helps into ‘crorepatis’, the CBI officials said.
The current market value of the properties owned by a domestic help of Mondal, Bidyut Baran Gayen, is estimated at ₹12.03 crore. He is also a director of Neer Developer, a company owned by Sukanya.
Another person, Biswajyoti Bandyopadhyay, who had joined Mondal’s family as a “paid homemaker” against a monthly salary of ₹5,000, went on to become a TMC councillor. He has ₹1.08 crore in his bank account.
Bandyopadhyay, however, told the CBI that the account is operated by Mondal, though it is in his name.
The CBI sources, however, admitted that its fourth supplementary chargesheet contained the name of a deceased as a witness — a mistake for which it might have to face flak in the court.
In the chargesheet, the investigating agency named 95 persons as witnesses. However, witness number 58, Madhab Kaibarta, died in a road accident in April, long before Mondal was even arrested in the cattle smuggling case. The CBI will have to answer to the court how a “dead man” has been made a witness in the chargesheet filed months after his death. Worst of all, the CBI did not even record the statement of Kaibarta.
Another witness in the case, a TMC MP Satabdi Roy, denied having made any deposition to the investigating agency against her party colleague in the case. Her denial came as a major embarrassment for the CBI.