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Congress paid Rs 23.5 L to Saket Gokhale for ‘social media work’ even after he joined TMC, he used only Rs 4,000 out of Rs 1 cr he crowd funded: What ED said

There was another expense that ED found. Saket had paid lakhs to one "Moksha Foundation". On being asked about that expense, he said that it was a de-addiction and rehabilitation centre where his maternal uncle was admitted in the year 2018. He says that he paid the expenses for the rehabilitation, however, does not remember how much he had paid.

TMC leader Saket Gokhale has now been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under PMLA for money laundering and misappropriation of the funds he collected through crowdfunding. ED made stunning revelations in their remand note and to the Special Court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday after arresting Gokhale.

ED has told the Special Court that the majority of the Rs 1 crore that Saket Gokhale collected through crowdsources was used by him for wining, dining, getting treatments done for his family members and investing in the stock market. The ED also said that Gokhale has told them that he received Rs 23.5 lakh from Congress. According to the agency, Gokhale said that the money was deposited in his account by one Shankar Sawai on behalf of Congress for “social media work and other consulting”. 

Interestingly, from ED revelations, it could be possible that Saket Gokhale was taking money from Congress much after he had joined TMC. While Saket Gokhale joined TMC in August of 2021, he got the money from Rahul Gandhi’s aide Shankar Sawai in November 2021. The ED says that Saket Gokhale has failed to produce any contract or letter that shows formal engagement by Congress and while he claims that this amount was disclosed in his ITR, he has failed to provide evidence for the same.

When ED asked him why Rahul Gandhi’s aide, Shankar Sawai, paid him in cash, Saket Gokhale said that only Sawai could answer that question. He further said that there was no contract between the two because he was given money on the basis of a “verbal contract”.

Some of the other revelations that ED made to the Special Court, countering the claims made by Saket Gokhale were as follows:

  1. Saket Gokhale claimed that he had hired several freelancers for various works related to campaigns. However, Saket Gokhale could not provide even one name of any freelancer he had hired. On the perusal of his bank account, the ED found that no payment was made to any such individual. It was also revealed that Saket Gokhale said he did not remember how much he had paid these supposed freelancers and what their names were.
  2. Saket Gokhale has also said that he invested the money he collected from crowd-funding in the share market to “get returns” and in the hopes that the returns from the stock market would sustain him without having to raise more funds from the public. ED in confirming his claims that he lost Rs 30 lakhs in losses.
  3. Saket Gokhale had claimed that he did not use the crowdfunding money to purchase liquor, and wine and spend on dinners, however, ED said that he admitted that he did not have any other source of income except the crowdsourcing money (and therefore, would have used the crowdfunding money for these expenses).
  4. Most interestingly, it seems like Saket Gokhale also cheated people in the name of his father. Saket Gokhale told ED he had collected Rs 6 lakhs through the campaign “Justice for Suhas” and the same was paid by him to Suhas Gokhale, his father. However, when ED asked Suhas Gokhale, he revealed that he had not been given any money by Saket Gokhale or his wife. In fact, Suhas Gokhale revealed that he was not even aware of any such campaign in his name run by Saket Gokhale or the money he had collected in his name through crowdfunding.

ED in its remand notice further said that between 2019 and 2021, Saket Gokhale ran three campaigns through platforms ‘OurDemocracy.in’ and ‘RazorPay’ namely, ‘Justice for Suhas’, ‘FightWithRTI’ and ‘SaketversusModi’ and raised Rs 80 lakhs through it. His bank account analysis further shows cash deposits of Rs 23,54,000 on ‘various occasions’. Essentially, the ED found that out of the Rs 1,07,30,113 that he collected through crowdfunding, none of the money was used for the stated purpose and was instead used for his personal expenses.

Saket Gokhale has told ED, as revealed in the remand notice, that he has filed more than 400 RTI applications, however, he has used only Rs 4,000 for these RTI applications.

ED was also told by Gokhale that he had raised money through crowdfunding for his personal sustenance and on being asked whether it was mandatory on these crowdfunding platforms to reveal the purpose of raising money, Saket Gokhale conveniently said that he did not remember.

According to the remand note, Saket Gokhale’s statements recorded by the ED on the 19th of January 2022 where he first claimed that he had informed the donors ‘right from the beginning’ that the purpose of the crowdfunding was for his personal sustenance so he could carry on filing RTIs without having to take up a full-time job. However, he had shared a post on the 23rd of May 2019 seeking support and contribution for the campaign “SaketversusModi’ in which he had nowhere mentioned that the purpose of funds was for his sustenance.

When he was confronted with this post, he backtracked his statement saying that this particular campaign was not for his sustenance but other campaigns were for his personal sustenance.

ED remand note

There were certain other shocking revelations made by Enforcement Directorate:

  1. When ED asked Saket Gokhale about health and legal expenses, he said that he paid Rs 6 lakhs but he does not remember to whom it was paid
  2. He said that he does not have any other source of income except crowdfunding and therefore, ED does not believe his version that he did not use crowdfunding money to buy liquor and go out for dinners.
  3. There was another expense that ED found. Saket had paid lakhs to one “Moksha Foundation”. On being asked about that expense, he said that it was a de-addiction and rehabilitation centre where his maternal uncle was admitted in the year 2018. He says that he paid the expenses for the rehabilitation, however, does not remember how much he had paid.
ED remand notice

Enforcement Directorate further said in their remand notice that Saket Gokhale has been giving evasive replies and has also tried to mislead the investigation by generally giving vague replies and at times, factually incorrect replies.

It must be mentioned that Saket Gokhale has been in judicial custody since his arrest by the Gujarat police on December 29 last year. Gokhale is accused of misappropriating ₹1.07 crore collected from the public through crowd-funding.

While rejecting his bail application on Monday (January 23), the Gujarat High Court said that the TMC spokesperson can apply for bail once the chargesheet is filed against him. Saket Gokhale is charged under sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust), and 467 (forgery) of the Indian Penal Code.

TMC leader Saket Gokhale was arrested by the Gujarat Police for siphoning off money in the name of activism. The police had found accounts linked to Gokhale where he was receiving money, which he claimed was being used for legal fees for activism-related cases but was instead being used for personal expenses. Before that, he was arrested by Gujarat police for spreading fake news about PM Modi.

Earlier this month, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee came out in defence of Gokhale and accused the Gujarat police of ‘procedural lapses’ in the investigation process.

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