Minister in India's West Bengal arrested in education scam probe

Partha Chatterjee, who holds three ministerial posts, was arrested at his home in the state capital Kolkata. PHOTO: PARTHA CHATTERJEE/FACEBOOK

KOLKATA (REUTERS) - India's financial-crime investigation agency arrested a West Bengal government minister on Saturday (July 23) for allegedly making money off recruitment for state-run schools, officials said.

Partha Chatterjee, who was education minister in the eastern state for more than five years, was accused of appointing hundreds of teachers and non-teaching staff for money and other forms of bribes, putting them in positions they were not qualified for or had they paid acquire, said an official of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Chatterjee, who holds three ministerial posts, was arrested at his home in the state capital, Kolkata, ED said.

"The minister has been charged under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act," an ED official said.

Chatterjee's lawyer and family could not immediately be reached for comment.

The directorate said in a statement it had seized about 200 million rupees (S$3.48 million) in cash from the house of an actor and model, a close associate of Chatterjee, finding incriminating documents, details of dubious companies, electronic devices, foreign currency and gold from the premises of other government officials linked to the alleged scam.

The arrest is a blow to West Bengal's ruling All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) party. Its leader and other members are among the most vocal critics of Narendra Modi's federal government.

"The party is in no way connected to the unaccounted money recovered by the agency," said AITC spokesman Kunal Ghosh.

The probe was ordered after some teachers reported alleged recruitment anomalies to the high court of the state, home to some of India's oldest and most prestigious educational institutions.

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