ED summons former Maharashtra HM Anil Deshmukh in a money laundering case, arrests his aides

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) probing a money laundering case against former Maharashtra state home minister Anil Deshmukh summoned the NCP leader to its Mumbai office Saturday. This, after the agency arrested Deshmukh’s personal assistant Kundan Shinde and his personal secretary Sanjeev Palande in the wee hours Saturday in the said case.

Sources said Deshmukh who was asked to present himself before the ED at 11 am today has sought time.

Suspected transactions worth Rs 20 crore, allegedly routed through a clutch of Kolkata-based shell companies, are at the centre of a probe by investigative agencies against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, sources privy to the development told ET.

These companies are mostly linked to Deshmukh’s relatives and associates, they said.

The source of these funds is believed to be ‘protection money’ paid to Deshmukh, including around Rs 4 crores ‘paid’ by bar owners in Mumbai.

Deshmukh and his associates are under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Enforcement (ED). On Friday, the ED carried out searches at multiple locations, including Deshmukh’s residence at GPO Chowk in Nagpur.

The CBI is probing graft allegations levelled by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh against Deshmukh, while the ED is investigating allegations of money laundering based on the offence registered by the CBI.

On Friday, Deshmukh’s personal assistant Kundan Shinde and personal secretary Sanjeev Palande were brought to the ED’s South Mumbai office for questioning. Reacting to the ED raids carried out at multiple locations in Mumbai and Nagpur on Friday, Deshmukh told reporters that he was cooperating with the probe agency.

“The complaint against me is mala fide as it was made by Singh when he was removed as the CP. Why didn’t he probe these allegations when he was at the helm?” Deshmukh said.

Deshmukh has challenged the CBI’s case against him before the Bombay High Court.

Sources said questioning of Kolkata-based shell company operators Manohar Nangalia and his relative Babulal Bunka had revealed that they had floated certain shell companies at the behest of a Nagpur-based chartered accountant with close links to Deshmukh.

Of the Rs 20 crore, Rs 10 crore was routed through a company called Zodiac Dealcom.

“The said firm is owned by four firms which are controlled by Deshmukh’s sons. The balance sheet of the said company shows Rs 10 crore used for the purchase of a warehouse in Maharashtra,” an official privy to the development said.

A Bengaluru-based real estate company, Assetz Infrahome, is also under the scanner of the investigative agencies. Assetz Infrahome was investigated by the Income Tax department in the past for questionable land deals with a multinational real estate firm.

“Certain transactions are linked to Deshmukh’s associates and this firm. A few people have also been questioned on the foreign investments and have not been able to give satisfactory answers,” another official added.

The duo was quizzed on statements by a few bar owners who claimed to have paid Rs 4 crore to Deshmukh.

“These bar owners have claimed to have paid money to Palande and Shinde and they have been questioned on the same,” the official added.

Sources said that earlier this week, the ED has also questioned dismissed Mumbai police officer Sachin Vaze in the said case on the content of the letter written by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. Vaze is currently lodged at Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail in connection with the Antilia bomb scare and Mansukh Hiren murder case.

Earlier in April, the Bombay High Court had directed the CBI to investigate the allegations of graft made by Singh. Following which, a preliminary enquiry was commenced and subsequently an FIR was registered against Deshmukh. The FIR has been registered under Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and Section 7 (public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In his eight-page letter Singh addressed to the chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, Singh had alleged that Deshmukh had directed Vaze to collect Rs 100 crore every month, including Rs 40-50 crore from some 1750 bars and restaurants in Mumbai.

The I-T department had earlier also probed some Maharashtra politicians and had found certain dubious transactions connected to Deshmukh. That investigation is ongoing.

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