The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which has filed a money-laundering case against former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer, is set to attach more properties allegedly owned by them. A source in the ED said “substantial” properties worth at least Rs 100 crore will be attached soon. “The properties belong to the Bhujbals and were bought through their companies,” said a senior ED officer, who did not wish to be named.
The ED’s investigations have revealed that the Bhujbals allegedly sent Rs 25 crore to Indonesia under the guise of investing in coal mines. “The coal mining had not begun as there were problems pertaining to the license,” added the officer.
Earlier, the central agency had attached land worth Rs 160 crore owned by Devisha Infrastructure, properties worth an estimated Rs110 crore owned by Parvesh Construction, including a nine-floor building in Santacruz where the Bhujbal family lives, and an open plot in Bandra. The agency alleges that these companies are promoted by the Bhujbals.
The ED says investigations are underway “to trace the colossal proceeds of crime amounting to Rs 870 crore”. The officer added, “Our (property attachment) target is to Rs 870 crore.”
The ED claims Sameer, a former MP, is the mastermind and has also questioned his cousin Pankaj.
The agency is likely to summon Pankaj for questioning again and alleges that Sameer is “still not coming out with true facts” during questioning.
The agency is also investigating the details of funds collected from prospective buyers for a housing project in Kharghar, and the source of funds used for projects in Bandra, Santacruz and Kharghar.
The ED says Sameer floated several companies, with his employees as directors, and channeled laundered money into them.
While the firms’ books of accounts conveniently label various fund transfers as loans or advances, investigators have not been able to ascertain exactly what business they carry out, the agency says.
ACB likely to file charges this week
The anti-corruption bureau (ACB) is likely to file a charge sheet against Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer this week, accusing them of misappropriation of funds and land-grabbing.
A source in the ACB said the charge sheet is “likely to be filed on Thursday”. It will include the findings of an ACB team that visited Kolkata. The team found out that several firms in Kolkata, which were said to have invested in companies allegedly promoted by the Bhujbals and their associates, are bogus.
Towards the end of January, the Bombay high court had asked the ACB and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), to a file progress report on their investigation in four weeks.
The ACB is probing several allegations of misuse of power and corruption against the Bhujbals. In the Maharashtra Sadan case, the contract for a makeover of the state guesthouse in Delhi was not advertised, and the chosen developer sub-contracted the project to companies allegedly owned by Bhujbals. In the Kalina land deal, Bhujbal and five others are accused of causing huge losses to the state by illegally leasing out a prime plot at Kalina in Santacruz to a private developer.