WBSSC scam: Arpita starts showing signs of breaking down

Kolkata, July 26 (IANS) After the first day of full-fledged questioning on Tuesday by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials probing the multi-crore West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) recruitment irregularities scam, the central agency officials are getting a different set of responses from former state education minister, Partha Chatterjee and his close aide, Arpita Mukherjee.
ED sources said that since their arrest on Saturday, the officials for the first time got a full-fledged opportunity to grill both Chatterjee and Mukherjee at the agency’s office at CGO Complex at Salt Lake in the northern outskirts of Kolkata.
While Arpita Mukherjee has been sheltered at a lockup dedicated for women in that office, for Chatterjee the probe officials have set up a make-shift lockup at one of the conference rooms there.
“On Tuesday, our two separate teams questioned Partha Chatterjee and Arpita Mukherjee separately. At the end of the day what we have witnessed is that Arpita Mukherjee has started showing signs of breaking down and started responding positively to the systematic questioning of our officers. On the other hand, Partha Chatterjee is still putting up an apparent brave face in the face of questioning and ducking most of our questions on the pretext of being faded out of memory,” an ED official said.
Sources further said that Partha Chatterjee and Arpita Mukherjee will be questioned for another day or two separately so that the interrogating sleuths have a clear idea of the inconsistencies in the statement given by the two in this connection.
After that, both will be confronted with one another and questioned together.
“We have time till August 3 since both will be in our custody till that date. We hope that by that time we will have adequate information about the remaining tentacles of the octopus in the multi-crore scam. Depending on the information secured, our higher officials will decide whether to make a plea for extension of the two after August 3,” a ED official said.
Meanwhile, state Congress president and veteran party Lok Sabha member, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, on Tuesday has written a letter to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee requesting the latter to strip Partha Chatterjee of all his ministerial posts.
IANS takes a bird’s eye view of the developments so far.
* Recovery from Arpita Mukherjee’s residence: ED sleuths have recovered cash worth Rs 21.20 crore, foreign currencies worth around Rs 60 lakhs, gold ornaments worth around Rs 90 lakhs, 20 high- end Apple iPhones, sale deeds of eight flats and documents of multiple high- end passenger vehicles.
* Two mysterious diaries: From the residence of Arpita Mukherjee, ED sleuths have recovered two mysterious diaries, which include one black executive diary and one pocket diary. On the black executive diary, it was written “Department of Education- Government of West Bengal”. Both the diaries are full of coded messages, which the ED sleuths are trying to decipher with the help of experts in the related fields. ED sources confirmed that the handwriting in both the diaries neither matches that of Chatterjee or Mukherjee, which deepens the doubt of the existence of a third person in the scene.
* Second woman under ED scanner: In face of interrogation, Arpita Mukherjee has informed the ED officials the name of another woman as a close associate of Partha Chatterjee, the lady concerned is Monalisa Das, the head of the department of Bengali at state-run Kazi Nazrul University in Asansol in Burdwan district.
Her elevation to the post of the head of the department, according to ED sources is questionable as to accommodate her for that position Das was promoted from the post of assistant professor to associate professor directly, which the agency sleuths believe was not possible without the nod of Partha Chatterjee as the-then state education minister.
ED sources said that the agency has come across at least 10 flats which are registered in the name of Das and most of these flats are located in Bolpur-Santiniketan in Birbhum district and the total value of these flats is highly disproportionate to the declared income of Das.
* Three bogus companies with Arpita Mukherjee as director: The ED sleuths have come across three bogus companies with Arpita Mukherjee as director. These companies Symbiosis Merchants Private Limited, Sentry Engineering Private Limited and Echhay Entertainment Private Limited. The second and the other director in all the three companies is Kalyan Dhar who is absconding currently. ED sleuths suspect that these companies were used as a medium to route the collections from the teachers’ recruitment scam to different channels.
* How much does Partha Chatterjee own: ED sleuths are now trying to figure out the exactly property owned by the former state education minister as well as to category-wise segregate the properties under heads of directly owned by him, jointly held with close associates like Arpita Mukherjee and those he gifted to his aides. Initial estimates suggest that the total value of such assets will touch or even cross Rs 100 crore.
* A “lonely” state commerce & industry minister: The net outcome of all these developments for the last four days is that Partha Chatterjee has remained isolated within his own party. First it was the senior leaders of Trinamool Congress and finally the party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee herself had made it clear that the onus of the entire development is on Chatterjee and not on the party or the state government. The chief minister even went to the extent of saying that if the accused (Chatterjee) is proved guilty, he might be imprisoned for life.

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