Day after ED search, Chhattisgarh CM Baghel's political advisor denies involvement in money laundering

Alleged hawala operator brothers Anil and Sunil Dammani and a man identified as Satish Chandrakar are the three others arrested in the case

Representative image of Enforcement Directorate (photo: IANS)
Representative image of Enforcement Directorate (photo: IANS)


Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel's political advisor Vinod Verma on Thursday claimed he does not have a "single penny" of ill-gotten money, a day after the Enforcement Directorate conducted a search at his residence.

Addressing a press conference here, Vinod Verma also said he has no connection with assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Chandrabhushan Verma, arrested along with three others by the ED on Wednesday in a money laundering case linked to the alleged illegal betting app called 'Mahadev Online Book'.

Alleged hawala operator brothers Anil and Sunil Dammani and a man identified as Satish Chandrakar are the three others arrested in the case.

According to the ED, the probe has found that around Rs 65 crore cash was received by ASI Chandrabhushan Verma. He kept his cut and distributed the rest as bribes to senior police officers and politicians, it claimed.

The ED on Wednesday conducted searches at the premises of Vinod Verma, who is also a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), and the CM's two Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) in Raipur and Durg districts.

Vinod Verma addressed a press conference on Thursday and said he produced all the bills of jewellery items found in his house, except one gold ornament which was gifted to his wife.

"But they still seized all the jewelleries saying the burden is on me to prove how I paid for these items. They even took cash which we received in envelopes as gift on my son's wedding day. Therefore I am calling it a dacoity and a robbery," he said.

Vinod Verma said he had a long stint as a journalist and became a politician a few years back.

"I have nothing. The ED is claiming I am involved in laundering of Rs 65 crore, but I want to say I do not have a single penny (of ill-gotten money)," he added.

He claimed the ED's allegations were merely based on a "manohar kahani" (fictional news article) published in a magazine last year. .

"That fictional news article claimed Chandrabhushan Verma was related to me. I complained against the news article to Durg police in December last year seeking a probe into it. I had also assured to cooperate with police in the probe into the matter," he said.

However, Vinod Verma said he once met ASI Chandrabhushan Verma about two-and-a-half years back and warned to take action against him if misused the former's name. .

"I am not related to ASI Verma. I want to ask what proof the ED and Centre have that I am related to him? This raid is based on a fictional story and statement of just one person (arrested ASI) against me. They have no evidence at all," Vinod Verma claimed, adding he will approach court against the magazine.

He also claimed the action by the ED was taken at the behest of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, due this year-end, and the BJP was targeting those working for the Congress.

"The home minister knows who is going to win elections in Chhattisgarh. The prime minister is acting like a dictator and trying to crush his political opponents. They (BJP) are targeting everyone working for Bhupesh Baghel," he further claimed.

"They had similarly arrested me ahead of the previous assembly elections in a CD case," he said.

Vinod Verma also accused the Centre of promoting online gambling.

The ED in a statement on Wednesday alleged that ASI Chandrabhushan Verma used his "relationship" with Vinod Verma and hawala funds received from Dubai to influence high-ranking officials and politicians connected to the Chief Minister's Office (CMO).

The agency alleged that the arrested accused have "specifically named high-ranking officials connected to the CMO who have received hefty kickbacks on a monthly/regular basis."

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Published: 24 Aug 2023, 2:41 PM