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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

No politics in money laundering case against Sharad Pawar: Fadnavis

Flanked by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Devendra Fadnavis said the police registered the FIR in this case on the high court’s directive on a petition with regard to the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam

india Updated: Sep 25, 2019 23:45 IST
G Mohiuddin Jeddy
G Mohiuddin Jeddy
Hindustan Times, Navi Mumbai
NCP leader Sharad Pawar interacts with media during press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar interacts with media during press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday. (HT Photo by Kunal Patil)
         

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday weighed in on the back-and-forth between the opposition camp and the ruling BJP over the money laundering case against Sharad Pawar. Fadnavis rebutted the charge that the Enforcement Directorate case against the Nationalist Congress Party boss was linked to politics, insisting that the initial FIR was registered on the directions of the high court.

The chief minister also said the ruling alliance did not need to such actions because it was going to anyways win next month’s state elections.

Flanked by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Fadnavis said the police registered the FIR in this case on the high court’s directive on a petition with regard to the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam.

“The petitioner had named persons and sought criminal action against them. The court had then ordered the state police to register the case in 5 days. Thereafter it ordered contempt as well,” Fadnavis said.

The chief minister added that the ED, which comes under the Centre and not the state, had to automatically come into the picture under the rules for financial frauds involving Rs 100 crore or more.

Fadnavis’ response came on statements by Sharad Pawar and other opposition leaders who blamed political vendetta for the ED case just ahead of state elections. If someone plans to send me to jail, I welcome it,” the 78-year-old Maratha politician had said earlier in the day.

Pawar followed it up with a news conference later in the day where he announced his plan to show up at the ED office on 27 September before hitting the campaign trial.

BJP leader Kirit Somaiya also countered Sharad Pawar, stressing that Sharad Pawar was a “very mature politician”. So mature, Somaiya said, that Pawar is able to link two unrelated developments: state elections and the case filed on high court’s orders.

“I think that Sharad Pawar is a very respected leader,” Somaiya told news channel NDTV. But there is fine print. Somaiya said it was possible that the conduct of Sharad Pawar’s relatives may not have been above board and would be probed by the investigating agencies.

Sharad Pawar, a four-time chief minister, has been closely associated with the state’s cooperative movement. He first became a legislator in 1967 and has since then, served seven terms in the Lok Sabha. The Maratha strongman broke away from the Congress in 1999 to form the NCP.

The case pertains to loans provided by Maharashtra State Co-operative (MSC) Bank to co-operative sugar factories (CSFs), spinning mills and other processing units.

It is alleged that top executives and office-bearers were given loans in a fraudulent manner. Most of the 48 directors of the MSC bank at the time when the alleged fraud was committed between 2001 and 2011, were elected representatives from various parties. The ED case named NCP chief Sharad Pawar, his nephew and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, Peasants and Workers Party leader Jayant Pati and others in connection with the Rs 25,000-crore co-operative bank fraud.

Earlier this month, Ajit Pawar and others had moved the Supreme Court to quash the proceedings in the matter, but Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah had declined the plea and instead asked the Mumbai Police to conduct a free and fair probe.

The ED said several irregularities were detected in loans provided to the cooperative sugar factories (CSFs) by the MSCB officials who were allegedly connected to the owners of the factories. The loans were sanctioned to factories despite weak financials, negative net worth and in many cases, without collaterals.