In a surprising turn of events, Bengaluru police has made a dramatic decision to drop the First Information Report (FIR) filed against Suryakant Tiwari, a prominent businessman and the prime accused in the Chhattisgarh coal scam. While this move has raised eyebrows, it is unlikely to bring any relief to Tiwari in the ongoing investigation conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into alleged money laundering. The ED’s investigation is based on a prosecution complaint filed by the income tax department, and given the existence of multiple FIRs, the partial withdrawal of one is not expected to have a significant impact on the overall case.
Political Implications and Reactions
The dropping of the FIR against Tiwari by Bengaluru police comes at a politically crucial time, following the recent change in the regime in Karnataka. Reacting to media reports on this development, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel was quoted as stating that this decision extinguishes the very basis of the ED’s probe against the coal scam accused.
ED’s Clarification and Ongoing Investigation
Sources within the ED have clarified that the FIR in question was only partially withdrawn, indicating that the rest of the charges against Tiwari still hold. Additionally, they emphasized the existence of another predicate offense that forms the basis for the ED’s investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Allegations of Extortion and Money Laundering
According to the ED, Tiwari and his employees were involved in extorting an illegal “levy” from coal transporters, estimated to be Rs 25 per tonne of illegally mined coal. The money laundering investigation by the ED was initiated based on the FIR lodged by the income tax department. Thus far, the agency has arrested nine individuals under the PMLA, all of whom are currently in judicial custody.
Chargesheets and Proceeds of Crime
The ED has already filed two chargesheets (prosecution complaints) in this case, one on December 9th of the previous year and another on January 30th of this year. These chargesheets have been taken cognizance of by a PMLA court and include Suryakant Tiwari, Saumya Chaurasia (an aide of Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel), IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi, and others as accused.
The ED’s complaint states that their investigation has revealed proceeds of crime amounting to Rs 540 crore acquired through this extortion racket. Additionally, the agency claims that the illicit funds were utilized for political expenses, the creation of benami assets, and bribing officials. As part of this case, the ED has already attached assets worth more than Rs 220 crore. The investigation is ongoing, and further progress is expected.
Limited Impact of FIR Withdrawal
Although the decision by Bengaluru police to drop the FIR against Suryakant Tiwari has attracted attention, it is important to note that the ED’s investigation into alleged money laundering in the Chhattisgarh coal scam continues. The partial withdrawal of one FIR is not expected to significantly impact the case, as there are other charges and investigations in progress. The ED remains committed to pursuing all leads and unraveling the truth behind the extortion racket and its financial implications.