The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday intensified the investigation in the lottery case of Trinamool Congress (TMC) strongman Anubrata Mondal. CBI officials Friday visited a lottery shop in West Bengal’s Birbhum district where TMC leader Anuvrat Mandal won a prize of Rs 1 crore. The officials also asked the shop for the details of the lottery tickets purchased by the jailed Anuvrat. A senior CBI official said the officials questioned the owner of the shop in Bolpur and other persons posted there.
According to reports, Anuvrat had earlier this year won a prize money of Rs 1 crore from a lottery ticket, which was allegedly bought by her bodyguards on her request. Let us inform that the CBI had arrested Anuvrat on August 11 in the animal smuggling case, currently he is in judicial custody. The lottery is organized by a company based in Nagaland. The CBI is probing whether Mandal had bought prize tickets from someone else to launder smuggling proceeds.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is conducting a parallel probe into the operation of the lottery company in Bengal as the relatives of two more TMC leaders recently won the first prize. On Friday, a CBI team went to Bolpur town in Bengal’s Birbhum district. Here Anuvrat Mandal is the president of the local TMC unit. The agency questioned a dealer, a sub-dealer and a retailer of the lottery company here. Earlier this week, a distributor was questioned twice at CBI’s Kolkata office. The dealer and sub-dealer were asked to report to the CBI’s camp office at Bolpur along with the documents related to the award won by the Mandal. According to company records, Sheikh Munna, a retailer who sold the prize ticket, told the CBI that he had not sold it to Mandal.
Sheikh Munna told reporters while leaving the CBI camp office in the evening, “I sell tickets in local villages. I don’t remember who bought it, but it was definitely not Anubrata Mandal.” Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a CBI official said that records show that Mandal got the first price in the draw held on December 7, 2021. He was declared the winner of Rs 1 crore for ticket number 89H54045 which cost Rs 6. However, when the lottery company published a newspaper advertisement in January this year with Mandal’s picture showing him as the winner of the first prize, he denied this information to the local media.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has alleged that Trinamool Congress leaders are laundering money through lottery operations in the state. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari had sent a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah in November last year on the issue. The letter was sent by Mandal about a month before the award was won. BJP’s Bengal unit president Sukanta Majumdar also demanded a probe by federal agencies on Friday. Majumdar said, “TMC leaders have found an astrologer who accurately predicts when they will win the first prize. I urge him to share the address of this astrologer. Let other people try your luck too.”
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh rubbished the allegation. He said, “Rules for conducting lottery have been framed by the Centre. This lottery company is located in another state. BJP leaders cry when one or two of our people win prizes, but when hundreds of people win first prizes every week, they keep quiet.” HT could not contact the lottery company over phone despite several attempts.
The ED on Friday questioned Mandal’s daughter Sukanya for the third consecutive day at its Delhi office. ED officials said Manish Kothari, a chartered accountant of Mandal and two Birbhum-based businessmen Rajeev Bhattacharya and Tulu Mandal, who are believed to be close to the TMC leader, were also questioned in Delhi on Friday. Though Kothari and Bhattacharya were interrogated earlier, this was the first time that Tulu Mandal faced the ED. The CBI had raided their residences in Birbhum’s Siuri town two months ago.
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