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Chhattisgarh: ED files second chargesheet in coal levy scam case, names CM Baghel’s deputy secretary as key link with prime accused

According to the ED's 5500-page chargesheet, this syndicate extorted Rs 25 for each tonne of coal delivered in Chhattisgarh more than the authorized rate set by South Eastern Coalfields Limited, a Central PSU.

On Thursday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) filed a second chargesheet before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Raipur in the coal levy scam case and stated that a Chhattisgarh civil services officer Saumya Chaurasia, then employed as deputy secretary to CM Bhupesh Baghel, is the suspected key individual in creating the syndicate led by the main accused Suryakant Tiwari and that she directly obtained profits of crime to the tune of more than Rs 30 crore.

However, accused officer Saumya Chaurasia has denied the charge levelled against her by the ED, according to the reports. “There is no evidence against my client. This is a politically motivated case to destabilize the (Congress-led) Chhattisgarh government. We will apply for her bail in a week,” claimed Faizal Rizvi, her lawyer.

The ED has stated that Tiwari obtained an apartment in Bhilai next to Saumya Chaurasia’s house, from where unlawful money transactions may have taken place. According to the prosecution case, three IPS officers and several other government employees reportedly gave material to Tiwari on Chaurasia’s orders. According to the ED’s 5500-page chargesheet, this syndicate extorted Rs 25 for each tonne of coal delivered in Chhattisgarh more than the authorized rate set by South Eastern Coalfields Limited, a Central PSU.

The scam has resulted in the arrests of IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi, businessman Sunil Agrawal, Laxmikant Tiwari, Suryakant Tiwari, and Saumya Chaurasia, as well as other accomplices including mining department officials in Chhattisgarh to date. 

The ED claims Tiwari collected the money from carriers, the agency claims transporters obtained delivery instructions from the state government only after Tiwari gave the green light. According to the agency, the syndicate extorted approximately Rs 540 crore from coal transporters and other state businessmen.

The second charge sheet names Saumya Chaurasia, her brother Anurag Chaurasia, Suryakant Tiwari’s brother Rajnikant Tiwari, his mother Kailash Tiwari, mining inspectors S S Nag and Sandeep Kumar Nayak, and one Rajesh Choudhary as defendants. The ED claimed that Tiwari used Saumya Chaurasia’s name to put pressure on various officers to commit illegal acts.

As stated in the ED’s charge sheet, investigators also seized two diaries containing 950 entries recording transactions totalling Rs 540 crore. The diaries show that Rs 170 crore was allegedly used to acquire Benaami assets, Rs 36 crore was given to Chaurasia through one Manish Upadhyaya, Rs 52 crore was compensated to a senior politician, and Rs 4 crore was paid to some MLAs in Chhattisgarh, among other exchanges.

“There are various outgoing entries in the diaries relating to the payment of cash to one Manish Upadhayay, who was close to Chaurasia. Upadhyay was a relative of Suryakant Tiwari, who planted a flat right opposite the flat of Chaurasia…The ED investigation revealed that whenever Chaurasia needed cash from Tiwari’s coal cartel, the money was sent to Upadhyay and entered in the diaries under the name MU, which has been corroborated by the timings of the sale deeds & admissions by the employees of this coal cartel,” the chargesheet reads.

The ED also stated that they investigated the financial trail, looked at land deals made in the name of the Chaurasia family, and verified that funds relocated from Tiwari to Chaurasia via Upadhyaya. “The analysis of seized diaries show that Saumya Chaurasia had received amounts over ₹30 crores from the illegal extortion done by Tiwari,” the ED reiterated.

The agency also stated that the entire extortion racket would not have been possible without the active participation of the mining officers. “The extortion racket would not have occurred, if the mining officers had followed the rule book and expeditiously issued the manual NOCs,” it added.

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