The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered two cases of money laundering against the NCP leader and former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj Bhujbal, nephew Sameer Bhujbal and 19 others, suspecting illegal transactions of Rs 900 crore, under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The ED on Wednesday registered two Enforcement Case Information Reports (ECIRs) against Bhujbals and others. ECIRs are akin to first information reports (FIRs) filed by the cops.
“The first ECIR pertains to the Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land allotment case while the second ECIR is in connection with an FIR against the senior NCP leader involving a housing project at Navi Mumbai wherein Devisha Infrastructure was involved,” a top official of ED told dna.
The ED investigation is based on two FIRs filled by Anti-Corruption Bureau of Maharashtra police against Bhujbal for alleged irregularities in allotment of a prime plot at Kalina in Mumbai worth Rs 88 crore.
While the second case was for large-scale irregularities of Rs 749 crore in the construction of the new Maharashtra Sadan, the government’s guest house in Delhi. The Public Works Department under Chhagan Bhujbal had allegedly awarded sub-contracts to firms in blatant violation of rules in the case. The new Maharashtra Sadan was built at the cost of Rs 100 crore when Congress-NCP coalition was in power in Maharashtra.
The third case, which ED is looking at is the housing project at Navi Mumbai involving an amount of Rs 44 crore. An FIR has already been registered last Saturday, at the Taloja Police Station in Navi Mumbai, naming Bhujbal, his son Pankaj, and nephew Samir in the case. They were booked under IPC sections related to cheating, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and relevant provisions of Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act.
Around 2,500 people had booked flats in the project ‘Hex World’ promoted by a realty company owned by the Bhujbal family at Kharghar.
“Our intention is to investigate the money trail – the source of income, where the money has come from, and where and how it was invested. We will also probe whether the money was invested in India or abroad. If we found that the proceeds of crime and illegal money was used to fund purchase of properties in Mumbai and Maharashtra, then all those properties would get attached by us,” said ED officials.
According to the ECIRs, copies of which are in dna’s possession, “On the basis of the aforesaid information, there is a prima facie case for an offence of money laundering under section 3 and section 4 of the said Act.”
Section 3 of PMLA is meant for proceeds of crime including its concealment, possession, acquisition or use and projecting or claiming shall be guilty of offence of money-laundering. While Section 4 is for the punishment for money laundering, where there is a provision of upto 7 years of imprisonment if found guilty.
In addition, ED had also filed one case of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) against Bhujbal’s.
“Under the preliminary enquiry, it is noticed that the amount of Rs 32 crore was transferred by Armstrong Infrastructure to two Singapore-based front companies. These companies are still under investigation,” a senior ED official who is investigating the case told dna.
In between 2007 and 2011, Bhujbal’s son Pankaj and nephew Sameer are the directors in Parvesh Construction Pvt Ltd, a firm which executes redevelopment projects in Mumbai. The company has raised Rs 65 crore by selling its shares worth Rs 100 each for a premium of Rs 9,900.
“We suspect these shares were purchased by shell companies, which were floated to pay kickbacks. Similarly, in the case of Armstrong Energy Pvt. Ltd, incorporated by Pankaj Bhujbal, has failed to explain the source of Rs 60 crore,” said an ED source.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, ACB has searched seven properties in Mumbai, two in Thane, five in Nashik and two in Pune to ascertain the assets owned by Bhujbal, his son and nephew. However, till now, no incriminate documents, cash or bullion has been seized.