Court to ED: TMC’s Saket Gokhale used crowd funds for winning-dining, stock trading
Trinamool Congress leader and RTI activist Saket Gokhale used a significant portion of the over Rs 1 crore collected through crowdfunding for “Winning and Dining”, intra-day trading in the stock market and treatment of family members, Enforcement Directorate (ED) a special court in Ahmedabad said on Wednesday.
The ED also claimed that Gokhale told them that he received Rs 23.5 lakh from the Congress.
According to the agency, Gokhale said the money was deposited in his account by one Shankar Swai on behalf of the Congress for “social media work and other consultations”. However, the ED said that the money was deposited in Gokhale’s account in November 2021, while he joined the TMC in August that year.
Gokhale’s lawyer Tapan Jain said he would be able to comment only after going through the ED documents produced in the court. The ED on Wednesday sent Gokhale to six days’ custody in connection with a money laundering case it is probing against the activist.
According to the ED’s remand application, between 2019 and 2021, Gokhale ran three crowdfunding campaigns – “FightWithRTI”, “Saket vs Modi” and “JusticeForSuhasGokhale” – through the online platform ourdemocracy.in to allegedly fund his public interest activities. to fund. According to the ED, these generated funds of over Rs 80 lakh and received cash deposits of Rs 23.54 lakh in his account.
The ED told the court that so far Gokhale has filed 400 RTI applications, which cost only Rs 4,000. The ED said that some of the money collected was also used to prepare a PIL against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to the remand application, Gokhale used Rs 30 lakh out of these funds to pay his credit card bills, which included “purchase of liquor… drinking and eating and other personal expenses”.
The ED said a major part of the funds, with transactions worth Rs 2 crore, were also invested in the stock market for intra-day trading. The application states that Gokhale has told the ED in his statement that he suffered a loss of Rs 30 lakh in this.
According to the ED, Gokhale paid for a de-addiction center in Nashik where his uncle was allegedly treated. He also collected Rs 6 lakh for his father’s treatment under the “Justice for Suhas” campaign, but his father told the ED that he did not receive any money from Saket, the ED told the court. In his statement given to the agency, the TMC leader has said that he does not remember to whom he gave the money.
According to the ED, Gokhale has maintained his innocence and claimed that he had made it clear that his crowdfunding campaigns were not just for his activities, but the money would also go towards his maintenance as he had no source of income. There was no source.
But, the ED claimed that the platform manager of ourdemocracy.in told the agency that Gokhale never mentioned that these funds would be used for living or personal expenses.
While Gokhale claimed that his food and living expenses were not met with the crowdfunding money, the ED has argued that the activist himself claimed that he had no other source of income, the remand note claimed. .
On depositing Rs 23.54 lakh cash in his account, the ED claimed that Gokhale failed to produce any documentary evidence of the money received from the Congress, as he claimed that his agreement to provide social media services to the party was “verbal”. .
According to the remand application, Gokhale also claimed to have spent money on freelancers to help him with his work, but the ED said he failed to name even a single freelancer hired by him, and their bank accounts No payment was shown to this effect.
“Saket Gokhale has raised the above funds from the public for social causes, but has instead used (them) for personal use. By doing so, he has broken the trust of the donating public. … From the investigation … it appears that he is the pivot in receiving and possessing the proceeds of crime,” the ED said.