Eight benami properties allegedly belonging to Saumya Chaurasia, Deputy Secretary to Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, which are valued at ₹7.57 crore have been provisionally attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the illegal coal levy extortion scam.

These are part of 51 immovable properties worth about ₹17.48 crore which have been attached by the ED as it suspected that they are proceeds of crime committed to extort coal levy in Chhattisgarh. The ED also said that the remaining 43 benami properties are beneficially controlled by coal trader Suryakant Tiwari who is said to be the henchman in the scam.

This is in addition to a Provisional Attachment Order issued on December 12, 2022, attaching properties worth ₹152.31 crore belonging to Suryakant Tiwari, IAS officer Sameer Vishnoi, Saumya Chaurasia, Chhattisgarh Civil Service Officer, Sunil Agarwal and others in the same case, said the ED. Put together, the ED has attached assets to the tune of approximately ₹170 crore till now.

The ED has initiated money laundering investigation based on an FIR registered on a complaint of the Income Tax department. So far 9 accused have been arrested under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), informed the ED. All of them are in the judicial custody.

The agency said its “investigation has established that proceeds of crime worth ₹540 crore were acquired in this extortion racket. A systematic network of extortion was set up with the active connivance and participation of a large number of bureaucrats and higher powers. ED is investigating the entire gamut of the extortion racket”.