INDIA. Mumbai: While the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been raiding the homes of a few Maharashtra politicians in recent months, the Maharashtra government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Tuesday to look into allegations of extortion against some ED officers under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA-2002).
On Tuesday, Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil told the media that the charges of extortion against ED officials will be investigated by a SIT led by Additional Commissioner of Police Viresh Prabhu.
“The investigation will be completed in due course and the decision over the action to be taken will be taken after the report is received,” he added.
The decision to establish a SIT was made in response to extortion concerns. Some ED personnel, according to Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, were involved in an extortion scheme with one Jitendra Navlani, who operated out of Mumbai and New Delhi. He was threatening builders and corporations with Ed’s retaliation.
“In 2017, after ED raided 7 companies, Rs 25 crore was deposited in Navlani’s bank account. Subsequently, additional Rs 15 crore was deposited in his account, as the ED raids continued,” Raut had stated.
The Mumbai police have lodged a formal complaint based on the application made by Shiv Sena leader Arvind Bhosale against ED. The Maharashtra Ministers Anil Deshmukh, Nawab Malik, and other leaders of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ( Maharashtra Development Front) are already facing ED’s action.
On Tuesday, the ED issued a provisional notice to attach eight land parcels at Kihim in Alibaug (Raigad district) and a flat in Dadar in Central Mumbai, totally valued at Rs 11 crore linked to Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and his family members.
The Alibaug plots attached by ED are in the name of Varsha Raut (wife of Sanjay Raut) and Swapna Patkar (wife of Sujit Patkar) another associate of Sanjay Raut.
The money-laundering case against Sanjay Raut and his associates and family members is linked to an Rs. 1,034 crore land ‘scam’ related to the redevelopment of “Patra Chawl’ at Goregaon in North Mumbai.
Pravin Raut, an associate of Sanjay Raut, was a director of Guru Ashish Construction Pvt Ltd (GACPL), entrusted with the work of the redevelopment of the Patra Chawl, housing 672 tenants, spread over 47-acre land, belonging to the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA).
GACPL is a subsidiary company of Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL). GACPL never completed the redevelopment and Pravin Raut through the HDIL directors- Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan and Sarang Wadhawan, sold the floor space index (FSI) ( maximum permissible floor area that a builder can build on a particular plot of land), to various builders for Rs 1,034 crore, harming the tenants’ interest, the ED’s statement said. Pravin Raut, who received the money from HDIL, transferred it to his relatives and close associates.
Out of this, the proceeds amounting to Rs 83 lakh, were allegedly received by Varsha Raut from Madhuri Pravin Raut, the wife of Pravin Raut. Varsha Raut utilized this amount to buy a flat in Dadar. After the ED investigation began, she transferred back Rs 55 lakh to Madhuri Raut.
Incidentally, the groundbreaking ceremony for the redevelopment of Patra Chawl was held on March 01. Now the work is being carried out by MHADA at an estimated cost of Rs 143 crore, after 13 a year-long wait. Eventually, Pravin Raut was arrested by the ED on February 2, 2022, under the PMLA and he continues to be in jail.
The HDIL director Sarang Wadhawan and his father Rakesh Wadhawan earlier arrested by ED in connection with around Rs 4,300 crore fraud caused to Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) bank are at present in judicial custody at Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail.
Reacting to the ED action, Sanjay Raut said that the Alibag land was purchased in 2009 for which a loan of Rs.55 lakh was taken from Pravin Raut’s wife. This was also reflected in his election affidavit. The loan was subsequently repaid. He claimed that he did not know where the Patra chawl was located.
“This is a vindictive action since the BJP failed to destabilize the MVA government. The properties seized were self-earned, and if it was proved that he and his wife had even a rupee in black money, he would donate all his properties to the BJP. Such low-level politics was never seen in Maharashtra,” he added. Raut said he is not scared and will fight and expose everyone.
“I am not one to get scared, seize my property, shoot me, or send me to jail, Sanjay Raut is Balasaheb Thackeray’s follower and a Shiv Sainik, he’ll fight & expose everyone. I’m not one to stay quiet, let them dance. The truth will prevail,” he tweeted.
In another cryptic tweet, he said, “Asatyameva Jayate” (untruth alone triumphs).
After the ED action, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray telephoned Sanjay Raut. Besides, NCP MLA Rohit Pawar expressed solidarity with him. Most of the MLAs from Maharashtra attended a get-together at NCP Chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Later Rohit Pawar tweeted that the ED action is an undemocratic attempt by the centre to disturb non-BJP governments. A similar attempt was made in the TMC ruled West Bengal earlier.