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New Delhi: Trinamool Congress leader Anubrata Mondal, seen as a close aide of party supremo Mamata Banerjee, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday, August 11, in connection with the ongoing probe into the alleged West Bengal cattle smuggling scam.
The investigating agency alleged that his arrest was necessitated as he had been evading repeated summons served on him and was not cooperating with the authorities. Mondal was arrested after almost an hour-long interrogation by a CBI team that arrived at the Birbhum district president’s house early on Thursday, a CBI official told PTI.
“We have arrested him for non-cooperation in the investigation into the cattle smuggling scam,” the official said, adding that he was first taken to a hospital for a medical check-up. Mondal had skipped two earlier appearances before the investigation agency citing ill-health.
According to the CBI chargesheet, Mondal had direct involvement in the case, as he was in touch with the prime accused Enamul Haque.
“Vikas Mishra (brother of Vinay Mishra), Saigal Hussain (bodyguard of Anubrata Mondal) and Abdul Latif have been named in the charge sheet,” Indian Express quoted a CBI official as saying.
While Vinay Mishra of the TMC accused both in the West Bengal alleged coal scam and cross-border cattle smuggling scam is said to be “absconding”, Saigal and Vikash are in judicial custody.
Despite having not contested any election so far, 62-year-old Mondal is considered one of the trusted lieutenants of Mamata Banerjee and has been with TMC since its establishment in 1998. A local strongman, Mondal is credited by the party for his booth-management skills.
With Mondal’s arrest, two prominent TMC leaders in West Bengal have been arrested by central probe agencies in a span of a fortnight. Earlier, another top TMC leader and former minister Partha Chatterjee had been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in the alleged teacher recruitment scheme scam.
The alleged cattle smuggling, according to the CBI chargesheet, took place between December 2015 and April 2017. During this period, the probe agency said, Border Security Force (BSF) in Malda seized more than 20,000 cows before being transported across the border.
The CBI’s first information report (FIR) alleged that the seizure lists were “prepared arbitrarily, categorising the breed and size of the animals with an intention to reduce the upset price of the cattle during auctions”, according to the Indian Express report.
The probe agency alleged that it was done in “connivance” with BSF offucers, customs officials and traders Enamul Haque, Anarul Sk and Md Gulam Mustafa. The cattle were auctioned immediately within 24 hours of seizure, the CBI alleged.
(With PTI inputs)