Chhattisgarh: EOW lodges fresh FIRs against two IAS officers, former deputy secretary in CMO

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Raipur, Jul 8 (PTI) The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Chhattisgarh has registered a fresh set of FIRs against Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers Ranu Sahu and Sameer Vishnoi and state service civil servant Saumya Chaurasia on charges of corruption, officials said on Monday.

The three bureaucrats are in jail in connection with an alleged coal levy scam unearthed during the previous Congress government (2018-2023) in the state.

The EOW on July 2 lodged three fresh FIRs -- one each against Vishnoi, Sahu and Chaurasia -- for allegedly amassing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income, an official of the anti-graft agency here said.

They were booked under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988/Amended Act, 2018, he said.

According to the FIR against Sahu, a 2010-batch IAS officer, she had allegedly purchased immovable properties in her and her relatives' names between 2015 and 2022 with an investment of around Rs 3.94 crore.

Sahu is learnt to have received around Rs 92 lakh as salary from April 2011 to October 2022, but she illegally amassed wealth and invested around Rs 3.94 crore in immovable properties. Besides, the IAS officer has also allegedly invested in other immovable properties, insurance politics, shares and mutual funds, which need to be investigated, it said.

The FIR against Vishnoi, a 2009-batch IAS officer, stated that he received around Rs 93 lakh as salary from September 2010 to September 2022, but acquired disproportionate movable/immovable assets worth more than Rs 5.12 crore during this period.

Similarly, verification suggests that Chaurasia, a 2008-batch State Administrative Service officer, received about Rs 85.50 lakh as salary and other allowances till October 2022, while she has acquired 29 immovable properties in the name of her family members and acquaintances, which have value worth around Rs 9.22 crore, the FIR against her claimed.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which has been probing the money laundering angle in the alleged coal levy scam, had arrested Sahu in July last year.

While Chaurasia, then-deputy secretary in the Chief Minister's Office (CMO), was arrested in December 2022, Vishnoi was apprehended in October 2022 in the coal levy case by the anti-money laundering agency.

Since then, the three bureaucrats have been in jail.

The three officers are also among 35 persons named as accused in the FIR lodged by the state's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)/EOW in January this year under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the then prevalent Indian Penal Code (IPC) in connection with the coal levy case.

This case was lodged based on a report submitted by the ED.

The ACB/EOW FIR mentioned that an illegal levy of Rs 25 per tonne was being extorted for every tonne of coal transported in the state by a cartel involving senior bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and middlemen. As per the FIR, Suryakant Tiwari, a businessman, was the mastermind of the scam.

The ED had initiated a money laundering investigation in the "coal levy scam" in Chhattisgarh, conducted searches and arrested 11 accused persons and provisionally attached proceeds of crime worth around Rs 222 crore, it said.

A syndicate comprising private individuals like businessman Tiwari and state government functionaries like Chaurasia, Vishnoi, and state mining department officers with the backing of some political executives, managed to make deliberate policy changes, the document alleged.

They started a network of extortion to collect Rs 25 per on every tonne of coal transported in Chhattisgarh. "As per (entries) in the hand diaries, cash amount to the tune of Rs 540 crore was extorted by the coal cartel from July 2020 to June 2022," the FIR stated.

It further claimed that the extorted amount was utilized as per instructions of Tiwari and Chaurasia. PTI TKP RSY