The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested suspended Gujarat-cadre IAS officer Pradeep Sharma on Sunday in connection with a money laundering case.
Officials said Sharma had been booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on an FIR of the Gujarat CID. He was arrested after he reached the office of the ED for interrogation.
The investigative agency claimed that the custodial interrogation was necessary as the 1994-batch officer was not cooperating. The Supreme Court had recently vacated an interim stay on his arrest after the ED filed an affidavit seeking his arrest in the case.
The case pertains to sanction of government land in Bhuj for industrial use to Ms Welspun India Limited, and its group companies, Welspun Power and Steel and Welspun Gujarat Style Roharan, in 2004 when Sharma was the district collector and chairman of the District Land Evaluation and Pricing Committee.
The central agency’s probe in the case found that Sharma had allegedly “sanctioned huge land at cheaper price to Ms Welspun India Ltd. and its sister concerns Ms Welspun Gujarat Stahi Rohren, Ms Welspun Power and Steel company by manipulative acts in gross violation of norms, instructions and guidelines as laid down by the state government of Gujarat”.
Through this allotment, Sharma “allegedly caused financial losses to the state government to the tune of Rs 1.20 crore (approx)”, the agency said.
“Against this favour, he has received gain to the tune of Rs 22 lakh in the name of his wife Shyamal P Sharma within a short period of 15 months by just investing Rs 1 lakh (in January 2008) in one Ms Value Packaging,” the ED probe report said.
The ED invoked PMLA alleging that the money was first deposited in his wife’s overseas bank account and then transferred to his account in violation of the Act.
Sharma was arrested by the CID in this case. He later received bail.
The ED suspects that Sharma is the beneficiary of an alleged undisclosed Swiss bank account. It has attached Sharma’s assets worth Rs 75 lakh to the case.
Sharma had earlier filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that he was being victimised by the then Narendra Modi government in Gujarat and had sought a CBI inquiry into the cases against him. However, the apex court rejected his application.
The suspended IAS officer’s name had figured in the so-called snoopgate tapes released in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by two private portals, which had conversations between Amit Shah, the state home minister at the time, and IPS officer GL Singhal regarding surveillance on a female architect in Ahmedabad.