ED attaches properties of Chhattisgarh IAS officer

RAIPUR: Enforcement Directorate has attached movable and immovable properties worth Rs 36.09 crore belonging to the now suspended IAS officer BL Agrawal and of M/s Prime Ispat Limited—a company owned by his relatives. The move comes after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Agrawal, a principal secretary, in a bribery case last month.

ED started investigation under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to unearth the financial trail including the benami accounts and 13 shell companies which invested money in the equity shares of M/s Prime Ispat Limited, a spokesman of office of ED said in Raipur on Tuesday.

Sources in the directorate said prima facie the modus operandi adopted to launder the money earned by Agrawal was to open large number of accounts in the names of unsuspecting villagers and then cash deposits were made into these accounts. The deposits were channelized into shell companies as share application money and thereafter these shell companies invested this money as equity at a premium in M/s Prime Ispat Limited, a company owned by relatives of the IAS officer.

These equity shares belonging to the shell companies were purchased, in the end, by sister concerns of M/s Prime Ispat Limited, thus leaving control of entire money with Agrawal and his brothers. The money was used for investment in factory building, land, machinery and immovable properties belonging to M/s Prime Ispat Limited, ED sources said.

Last month, the CBI had arrested Agrawal along with his brother-in-law Anand Agrawal from Raipur and an alleged middleman Bhagwan Singh from New Delhi. It was alleged that Agrawal wanted to “settle” CBI probe against him which were registered in 2010.

In 2010, the CBI had registered two cases, one about impersonation, cheating and other Disproportionate Assets (DA) case against the officer. During the same time, Income Tax authorities had conducted searches on the premises of the IAS officer and his chartered accountant Sunil Agrawal. On the basis of this search, state economic offences wing had registered a DA case against him.

During the probe in 2010, it had come to light that 446 benami bank accounts in the names of unsuspecting villagers of Kharora and nearby villages with Union Bank of India Pandri Branch and Ramsagarpara branch in the state capital. With the connivance of bank officials, these accounts were opened even though none of the account holders turned up to the bank in person for verification of their signature and by flouting KYC norms. During the investigation, the account holders—who were drivers, mason, paan vendors, farm labourers, carpenters, milk vendors and temple priests—flatly denied having opened or operated these bank accounts.

According to ED sources, scrutiny of bank transcripts revealed that cash deposits were made to different bank accounts on the same days, signaling that deposits had come from a single source. Citing an example, sources pointed out that cash deposits of Rs 1.68 crore were made in these benami accounts on a single day on December 12, 2008. Likewise, around Rs 39 crore was deposited in these accounts during 2006-2009, they said.
Sources claimed the funds later moved from the benami accounts to 13 shell companies, allegedly operated by a chartered accountant, by way of investment by benami account holders in equity shares of the 13 shell companies at a huge premium even though the shell companies did not have any operational income. In total, the 13 shell companies received investment in its equity to the extent of Rs 39.67 crore, they said.

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