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Chhattisgarh: ED arrests ex MARKFED MD in rice miling 'scam'

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Raipur, Apr 30 (PTI) The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday arrested former Chhattisgarh MARKFED managing director Manoj Soni in a money laundering case linked to an alleged rice milling scam worth Rs 175 crore, official sources said.

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Soni was taken into custody and produced before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Raipur where the agency will seek his custody for interrogation.

The federal agency had last year said in a statement that Rs 175 crore bribes were generated through this alleged scam for the "benefit of higher powers".

It last raided Soni, some officers bearers of the state rice millers association, including treasurer Roshan Chandrakar, district marketing officers (DMOs) and a few rice millers in October last year as part of a custom rice milling special incentive 'scam' in the central Indian state.

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The agency has earlier said in a statement that its case stems from a complaint filed by the Income Tax department before a court Raipur where the tax department had alleged that the office bearers of the Chhattisgarh rice millers association "colluded" with officers of the state marketing federation Ltd (MARKFED) and "hatched a conspiracy to misuse the special incentive where Rs 40 per quintal of paddy was paid by the state government to rice millers for custom milling of rice".

The state is known as the rice bowl of the country due to its high volume of paddy production.

The ED said this amount of Rs 40 was "exorbitantly" increased to Rs 120 per quintal of paddy and this was paid in two instalments of Rs 60 each.

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"The office bearers of Chhattisgarh state rice millers association under the leadership of its Treasurer Roshan Chandrakar, in connivance with Manoj Soni MD of MARKFED, started collecting kickbacks amount of Rs 20 per installment for each quintal of paddy milled from the rice millers." "The details of rice millers who have paid the cash amounts were sent by the district rice millers association to the concerned DMO," the ED found.

The DMOs, upon receiving the bills of rice millers, cross-checked them with the details received from the concerned district rice millers association and this information was then passed on to the head office of MARKFED, it said.

The bills of "only those rice millers who have paid cash amount" to the association were cleared by the MD, MARKFED for payment, it alleged.

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Probe found, the ED said, the increase in the special allowance from Rs 40 to Rs 120 per quintal, payments of Rs 500 crore were released, generating "kickbacks" of Rs 175 crore which were collected by Roshan Chandrakar with active assistance of MD MARKFED (Soni), for the benefit of 'higher powers'.

The agency said it seized "incriminating" documents, digital devices and "unaccounted cash" of Rs 1.06 crore during the raids.

The ED, over the last few months, has claimed to have unearthed a coal levy, a liquor duty and an illegal online betting app (Mahadev app) "scam" in the state which is currently being ruled by the BJP after it defeated the Congress party led by chief minister Bhupesh Baghel in the assembly polls held last year.

In all these cases, the ED has claimed, kickbacks worth crores were generated through a nexus of local politicians and bureaucrats. It has arrested a number of IAS officers, a police official and some others in these above mentioned cases till now. PTI NES NB NB

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