West Bengal job scam proceeds may have been used to finance movies: ED, CBI officials | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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West Bengal job scam proceeds may have been used to finance movies: ED, CBI officials

Feb 21, 2023 01:13 AM IST

All arrests are in connection with a cash-for-jobs racket in which teaching and non-teaching staff were allegedly appointed, in violation of due procedure, in government schools between 2014 and 2021

Kolkata: Investigations into three people involved in the West Bengal job fraud racket who were arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) since July last year has shown that some of the proceeds of the crime may have been used to fund Bengali movies and music videos, officials of the two federal agencies said on condition of anonymity.

Former West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee was arrested by ED in connection with the case in July last year. (ANI)
Former West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee was arrested by ED in connection with the case in July last year. (ANI)

Two of these suspects, Kuntal Ghosh and Shahid Imam, were leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and hail from Hooghly district. They were arrested on January 21 and February 17 respectively.

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The third, Arpita Mukherjee, a resident of Kolkata, was a close aide of former education minister Partha Chatterjee. Both were arrested in July 2022.

All arrests are in connection with a cash-for-jobs racket in which teaching and non-teaching staff were allegedly appointed, in violation of due procedure, in government schools between 2014 and 2021.

Ghosh, arrested by ED, owns a production house which is now being investigated. Imam, arrested by CBI on suspicion of being one of the agents who collected money from job seekers, produced several movies in the last seven years and also acted in some music videos under the screen name “Shuvam.“

Imam’s father Hasan Imam, who unsuccessfully contested an Assembly and a Lok Sabha poll for the TMC during the Left Front era, was a school head master in Hooghly district where the family lives in the Arambagh area.

CBI officials said that volunteering to become a witness for the state, Shahid Imam told investigators that he was appointed as a school teacher in Howrah district in 2014 and soon started funding projects in the entertainment business. Four other agents were also arrested by CBI along with Imam on February 17; the agency told the Alipore court in Kolkata the following day that Imam could be remanded in judicial custody since his full statement had been recorded.

“I want to depose as witness and tell the court everything I know. I did not hide anything from the CBI,” Imam told reporters while he was being taken to the Alipore court on February 18.

In Kolkata’s Tollygunge area, where most of the movie studios are located, an actor, who did not want to be identified, said he knew Imam and was taken aback by his ambitions.

The actor said: “He wanted to make Hindi and Tamil movies. He talked of signing superstars such as Salman Khan. Whenever I asked about the source of his funds, he would say his father is a rich man and his family runs several businesses in Hooghly. He wanted to be famous .”

CBI officials found that Imam ran a small medicine shop till a few years ago but started building a huge house for himself at Arambagh in 2019. He bought several vehicles and an office in Kolkata.

Meanwhile, according to ED officials, statements made by Kuntal Ghosh indicate that he and his associates hacked the website of the primary education department to issue certificates of the teacher eligibility test (TET) to those who failed the examination, ED officials said. A raid at Ghosh’s residence yielded documents relating to the TET held in December 2022, which means that the racket was operating even after the Calcutta high court ordered the probe seven months earlier.

In May 2022, Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered the CBI to probe the appointment of non-teaching staff (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education between 2014 and 2021. The appointees allegedly paid bribes in the range of 5-15 lakh to get jobs after failing the selection tests.

ED, which started a parallel probe, arrested Partha Chatterjee and Arpita Mukherjee on July 23 last year. In its first charge sheet filed on September 19, ED said it traced cash, jewellery and immovable property worth 103.10 crore to the duo.

Mukherjee tried her luck in acting and modelling, ED found during interrogation. She was the director of several companies, including Echhay Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, which funded music videos, investigators said.

A popular Bengali movie director, who did not want to be identified, said flow of unaccounted cash, or black money in common parlance, is nothing uncommon in the Kolkata entertainment industry.

He said: “Film making, whether in Bengal or Mumbai, will stop if the funds of each and every producer is scrutinized. Several chit fund companies, including Rose Valley, which is facing CBI and ED probes, invested in Bengali movies. It is public knowledge. If a project makes profit, part of the unaccounted cash is whitewashed when it returns to the financier.”

Actor Sudip Mukherjee said he does not know Imam but is aware of how such people operate.

“You may call this the grey area of our industry. With no fixed income, there are many who will gladly work for projects funded by people with no established credentials.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Tanmay Chatterjee has spent more than three decades covering regional and national politics, internal security, intelligence, defence and corruption. He also plans and edits special features on subjects ranging from elections to festivals.

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