Noose tightens around Bhujbal; ED conducts raids

chhagan-bhujbalThe Enforcement Directorate (ED) has begun conducting raids at multiple locations in Mumbai in connection with two cases registered against former Maharashtra Deputy CM, Chhagan Bhujbal.

“We are conducting searches at multiple locations of those persons who are connected to the cases. The searches will continue throughout the day,” said an ED official.

Senior NCP leader Bhujbal, a key accused in the Maharashtra Sadan scam, is accused of laundering money worth Rs 900 crores.

Last week, ED had registered two Enforcement Case Information Reports (ECIRs) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against the NCP leader suspecting illegal transactions. ED also summoned four individuals of a Singapore-based firm in which Bhujbal’s company Armstrong Energy has invested.

One of the cases filed by ED is related to the Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land allotment case and the second case is filed in connection with a housing project promoted by Bhujbal’s family in Navi Mumbai.

On the same day that ED registered the cases, the Bombay High Court also directed the ACB to complete its investigation against Bhujbal and submit an interim report on July 22 and the final report on August 19.

Earlier, Maharashtra’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) searched seven properties in Mumbai, two in Thane, five in Nashik and two in Pune to ascertain the assets owned by Bhujbal, his MLA-son Pankaj and nephew Sam.

In a related development, two days ago, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis approved the proposal to suspend Information Commissioner Deepak Deshpande after ACB raided his premises and claimed to have unearthed multiple assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

In the housing project scam which affects over 2300 people, the Mumbai police booked Bhujbal on June 13 for swindling Rs 44 crores. The housing project ‘Hex World’ promoted by a realty company owned by the Bhujbal family, allegedly collected a booking fee from the clients in 2010 but did not begin construction for over 4 years.

The Bombay High Court on December 18, 2014, ordered that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising of ACB and ED be set up to probe the allegations against Bhujbal. There are 11 allegations of irregularities relating to money laundering by private firms run by Bhujbal and his relatives.

Meanwhile, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has strongly defended Bhujbal saying, “Bhujbal is our colleague and we will stand by him without interfering in the probe. We would help him in every way.”