BHUBANESWAR/KEONJHAR:Digging deep into allegations of money laundering, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday cracked down on sitting MLA Sanatan Mahakud and four Odisha-based mining and transportation firms as part of its investigation in the multi-hundred crore illegal mining scam.
Multiple teams of the ED fanned out and searched the premises of Patnaik Minerals, Serajuddin Mines and Triveni Earthmovers Ltd apart from Maa Kuanri Transport.
The camp office of Champua MLA Mahakud at Unchabali came under search during the operation which has been code-named “Earth.” Mahakud, an Independent legislator, is a partner in Maa Kuanri Transport, located in Unchabali.
The ED conducted simultaneous raids at 15 places in Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal during which it claimed to have seized incriminating documents. At least 10 places in Bhubaneswar, Rourkela and Keonjhar came under search by the sleuths with assistance from the local police.
Sources said the agency is looking for evidence on black money stashed away by the mining firms as pointed out by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) last year.
Earlier in the day, the investigating agency raided Fortune Towers office of Serajuddin Mines and a residential premises in IRC Village area in Bhubaneswar. Besides, its mines and camp offices in Keonjhar district also came under the search operation. Another team raided the Kolkata office of the mining firm.
Similarly, Triveni Earthmovers, a Rs 1,200 crore ore raising contractor firm known for its strong political clout in the State, also came under the ED raid. Its offices in Salem and Coimbatore were searched besides its camp office in Unchabali in Keonjhar’s Joda block.
The other mining company which was raided on the day was Patnaik Minerals. Its office in Rourkela and mines in Keonjhar were searched by the ED teams.
While Triveni Earthmovers, owned by B Prabhakaran, had acquired clientele of several top mining firms operating in the State including that of Serajuddin and Patnaik Minerals, Mahakud’s firm had a lion’s share in the ore transportation from Keonjhar, home to country’s biggest iron ore reserves.
“We have collected important documents during the search operations basing on which the next course of action would be decided,” an ED officer said.
The ED initiated investigation basing on the report of Justice MB Shah Commission which was probing into the multi-hundred crore illegal mining scam in the State and indicted several big mining companies for unlawful mining activities, including mining over encroached forest and non-forest land.
Besides, the SIT on black money had also asked the ED to initiate action against money laundering. The ED also took cognisance of the cases filed against these firms by the State Vigilance which initially investigated illegal mining scam.
The ED has, so far, lodged three FIRs in connection with the illegal mining. Last year, it had arrested Deepak Gupta, who headed Uliburu Mines and attached assets worth Rs 485 crore belonging to three companies earlier in May.