The Enforcement Directorate has attached assets worth Rs 65 crore in connection with the alleged Rs 25,000 crore Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam – in which NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has been named – sources in the central agency said on Friday.
The action was taken under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and the attached properties include a company linked to Mr Pawar, sources added.
These assets include land, building, machinery and other facilities held by a Guru Commodity Services Private Limited, that had leased it to a sugar mill – Jarandeshwar Sahkari Sugar Karkhana (SSK) – in Maharashtra’s Satara district.
The majority shareholder in the mill – Sparkling Soil Pvt Ltd – is linked to Mr Pawar, the agency said.
“Sparkling Soil Pvt Ltd is holding majority shares of Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills. Investigations revealed it is related to Ajit Pawar… and Sunetra Pawar (his wife),” the agency said.
Total value of assets is Rs 65.75 crore – the purchase price in 2010 – the agency added.
The agency’s action come during an uncertain time in the relationship between the Shiv Sena and other two members of Maharashtra’s ruling MVA government – the NCP and the Congress.
An uncertainty that was highlighted by comments from Nana Patole, the Congress’ state unit chief about contesting future elections on their own.
Recent meetings between Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have sparked speculation of a reconciliation between their two parties, which have much more in common with each other than the Shiv Sena does with either of its current allies.
Earlier this week Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said Mr Thackeray and PM Modi still shared a strong bond, despite their two parties falling out.
At least one Sena leader – MLA Pratap Sarnaik – has called on the two former allies to reunite.
Mr Sarnaik, interestingly, cited “harassment’ by central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, which last year raided properties belonging to Mr Sarnaik over a money laundering case.
“Harassment” central agencies has been a long-standing complaint; the opposition has accused the BJP of using the CBI and other agencies to pressure MPs and MLAs to switch sides, and bring down elected governments, with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee among the most vocal.
In 2019 the Enforcement Directorate filed a case naming the Pawars based on a case filed after a Bombay High Court ordered the police to charge Ajit Pawar and 75 others in the alleged scam.
The MSCB is controlled largely by NCP leaders and people close to them.
The complaint alleges banking laws and RBI guidelines were violated when loans were distributed to sugar factories and spinning mills in Maharashtra that had weak financial profiles. Many of those who had sanctioned the loans were allegedly linked to the owners of the sugar mills.
Last year Mumbai Police filed a closure report in the case, but the central agency opposed this.
With input from PTI
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