PMC fraud: ED arrests top men of Viva Group
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday morning arrested the managing director Mehul Thakur aka Monti of Viva Group and the firm’s chartered accountant (CA) Madangopal Chaturvedi in connection with the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank fraud case. A local court has remanded them to police custody till January 27.
Thakur is nephew of legislator Hirendra Thakur. His family promotes the Viva Group.
The arrests come after raids at five locations, including at Hirendra Thakur’s Virar office.
Hitendra Thakur said they were cooperating with ED, as they had nothing to hide. He has claimed that all their dealings were through cheques and were in black and white.
“We are prepared to answer all their queries and are even willing to visit the ED’s office. We have nothing to hide,” he has said.
On Friday, ED searched several premises belonging to Viva Group and its associates, including an office and residence of Thakur in Virar, an office in Andheri, and two residential premises of two financial consultants of the group at Juhu and Chembur. The agency claimed it recovered Rs73 lakh and some incriminating documents during the searches.
ED suspects that Thakur and Chaturvedi had complete information of the alleged irregularities linked to Pravin Raut, former director of Guruashish Constructions Private Limited, a subsidiary of Housing Development Infrastructure Limited (HDIL).
HDIL is accused of defrauding PMC Bank of over Rs6,670 crore by fraudulently obtaining nearly 70% of the bank’s overall loans.
ED officers suspect that the money routed by the accused was eventually parked in Viva Group. Officers said Chaturvedi was instrumental in carrying out the alleged irregularities and would prepare the balance sheets. He had allegedly also deleted some WhatsApp conversations and sold off his laptop to destroy evidences.
ED had launched a money laundering probe in PMC Bank case after Mumbai Police’s economic offences wing (EOW) registered a criminal case in September 2019 against HDIL, its promoters Rakesh Wadhawan and son Sarang, former bank chairman Waryam Singh, managing director Joy Thomas, and others for allegedly causing a loss of thousands of crores to the bank to benefit themselves. The prosecution complaint has been filed against Wadhawan and others under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
The investigation also revealed that the Wadhawans, allegedly in connivance with Viva Group, diverted more than Rs160 crore from HDIL to many companies belonging to Thakur’s firm in the garb of commissions. These funds were apparently diverted illegally from PMC Bank, the ED said on Friday.
The agency has also initiated investigation in another case against Wadhawan, Sarang and others for allegedly diverting Rs200 crore sanctioned by Yes Bank to a firm, Mack Star Marketing Pvt Ltd. This loan was allegedly siphoned off by the Wadhawans by showing a fictitious purpose.
During the investigation under PMLA, it was revealed that the Wadhawans illegally transferred two commercial properties, of Mack Star, valued at Rs34.36 crore, in Kaledonia building, Andheri (East), to Viva Holding, a company of Viva Group. For the transfer of the said two properties, separate sale agreements dated June 26, 2017, were prepared, in which the sale value for both the properties was shown Rs34.36 crore in total. In the sale agreement, the purchase amount was shown to be paid via 37 cheques by Viva Holding to Mack Star Marketing Pvt.
Investigation has revealed that these cheques were never encashed to the account of Mack Star, and Viva Holding never made payments for the purchase of the said property. The Wadhawans had illegally transferred these properties to Viva Group in violation to the article of association of Mack Star. Further, Viva Holding never showed these properties in its balance sheets.
ED had earlier stated that the investigation under PMLA had revealed that Rs95 crore had been siphoned off by Raut through HDIL, in active conspiracy and connivance with various persons. The sources of the funds were illegally availed loans or advances by HDIL from the PMC Bank. There was no document or agreement in support of these payments made to Raut. Further, as per the ledger of HDIL, the funds were given to Raut for acquiring land in Palghar area.
ED’s investigation also revealed that Raut paid Rs1.6 crore to his wife Madhuri from the proceeds of crime. Of this, Madhuri transferred Rs55 lakh as interest-free loan to Varsha Raut, wife of Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut. The amount was further utilised for purchase of flat in Dadar (East), ED said.
The agency claimed Varsha Raut and Madhuri are partners in Avani Construction. Varsha Raut has allegedly received Rs12 lakh from this entity as overdrawn capital converted to loan, on a contribution of mere Rs5,625. The loan amount still remains outstanding, ED stated.