• Bengal ration ‘scam’ probe: ED probes firm of TMC minister’s ex-aide and his meteoric ascent in business circle
    Indian Express | 16 November 2023
  • The quick rise of Jyoti Priya Mallick’s former aide, Abhijit Das, from being his CA to one of the directors of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has not gone unnoticed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) despite his distancing from the arrested TMC minister.

    ED officials probing the alleged irregularities in the public distribution system in the state said Das, who was officially Mallick’s aide from 2011 to 2014, set up his own travel company — Hermes Voyages Private Limited — in 2016 and went on to become a member of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in 2019, and then a director in the 190-year-old trade Chamber in the next three years.

    ED officials said they are probing if the money allegedly laundered by the arrested TMC minister from the ration scam was siphoned off to the travel firm owned by Das.

    Das, who is in his late forties, was summoned by the ED as his mother and wife were directors in one of the three shell companies of Mallick allegedly used to launder money received as kickbacks from the ration scam. His Howrah home was among the premises that were searched by the central probe agency on October 26, before the minister’s arrest.

    On November 5 after being questioned by the ED, Das told mediapersons that his mother and wife were made directors in the alleged shell firm on the minister’s “insistence”.

    “My mother and wife were made directors of the company. When the minister gives an order, it must be followed. His request is also a kind of instruction. I have told the ED everything. I do not know what transactions were made in that company. In 2014, my mother and wife left the company,” Das, who served as the minister’s chartered accountant and personal assistant till 2014, had told mediapersons outside the ED office.

    However, the ED found that Das formed his own company — Hermes Voyages Private Limited — in 2016 and quickly rose to prominence with his clientele in Dubai, the US, and England.

    “He (Das) made connections with many organisations in India as well as abroad. He had connections in FIFA and was the lone Indian present in the draw of Qatar FIFA World Cup football 2022,” said an ED official on the condition of anonymity.

    Meanwhile, the BCCI has maintained silence on the issue. Its Director General Subhodip Ghosh refused to comment.

    A senior member of the BCCI, however, said that the Chamber should initiate action against the travel company of Das. “After this information has been revealed, the Chamber should take immediate action against Hermes Voyages Private Limited. Otherwise, the image of the Chamber will be tarnished,” the member said without being identified.

    Another senior member of BCCI, however, defended the Chamber’s decision to make the travel firm of Das a member and him a director. “Any company can be a member of the BCCI after fulfilling some conditions and criteria. Hermes Voyages Private Limited fulfilled that criteria and became a member of the Chamber. And any member can be in the Board of Directors because these are the elected posts, not selected,” the senior BCCI member said.

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