Praful Patel in ED dock, denies deal with gangster’s wife
Praful Patel clarified in a press conference in Mumbai that there was no financial transaction or partnership between Mirchi’s wife Hajra Memon and his family, as claimed by the agency.Updated: Oct 16, 2019 02:17 IST
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has asked Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel to appear before it on Friday in connection with a money laundering investigation related to the assets of the late Iqbal Mirchi, a close aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Patel clarified in a press conference in Mumbai that there was no financial transaction or partnership between Mirchi’s wife Hajra Memon and his family, as claimed by the agency.
ED investigators also said they were investigating possible links between Patel and the promoters of HDIL (Housing Development & Infrastructure Ltd), Rakesh Wadhawan and his son Sarang Wadhawan, arrested in connection with the fraud at PMC Bank, after finding some documents which show that Patel used a private jet owned by a company linked to the Wadhawans. A passenger manifest list of Privilege Airways Pvt Ltd in ED’s possession, also reviewed by HT, states that Praful Patel used the private jet twice in March 2012. Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan are listed as the only directors of this company.
In response to a query, Patel said over the phone that he has “no business connection or financial dealings with HDIL promoters or PMC Bank”.
To be sure, Privilege Airways appears to be a charter operator, and such companies, as well as others that own jets, do rent them out to politicians and businessmen, the former especially during election season. The Wadhawans are currently in judicial custody over the fraud at PMC.
ED officials declined comment on whether they will ask Patel about these flights when he appears before the agency on Friday.
Patel’s alleged Mirchi connection has become controversial with home minister Amit Shah, in an interview with a TV channel, calling it “treason”. Ibrahim is an accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts and is now a fugitive harboured by and living in Pakistan.
According to ED officials, in the Mirchi probe, the former civil aviation minister is expected to be quizzed on the contours of a deal between a real estate company promoted by him and his wife and Mirchi’s wife.
According to ED officials, Patel’s Millennium Developers Pvt Ltd constructed a building called Ceejay House in Mumbai in 2006-07 and its third and fourth floors, measuring around 14,000 square feet, were transferred to Mirchi’s wife Hajra Iqbal Memon.
The land on which the building stands , the agency believes, was owned by Mirchi and purchased from the proceeds of crime of money laundering, drug trafficking, and alleged extortion crimes.
ED is also investigating other assets and associates of Mirchi. An official in the anti-money laundering agency said the estimate of Mirchi’s properties could be around ₹400 to ₹500 crore. Mirchi’s family also owns several properties in the UK.
In the press conference, Patel explained that the deal was essentially a redevelopment one, involving property partly owned by his family, and partly by others (including Hajra Memon). The property was disputed and under litigation and under terms of the settlement overseen by the Bombay High Court, his company was asked to arrive at a deal with others who owned parts of the property, either by buying them out, or giving them space in the redevelopment, Patel added.
“ I have nothing to do with Hajra Memon. The Millenium developers Pvt Ltd is a Patel family firm and Hajra or no one from her family owns any shares in it. There is not a single naya paisa dealing between the Patel family and Hajra,” said Patel. As for allotting her the space, Patel clarified that there were no restrictions on dealing with Memon.
The Bombay High Court order was delivered in 1999.
HT reported on Monday that multiple agencies including Enforcement Directorate (ED) were examining the deal.
Commenting on being summoned to ED on Friday, Patel said, “I’m a law abiding citizen, and will appear on receiving of intimation regarding the same.”
Patel claimed that as per the Bombay High court’s order, Millennium Developers Private Limited had the authority to negotiate and settle with the tenants and occupants by either offering them alternate accommodation or relocating them in the renovated building. Patel added, “Hajra was holding Indian citizenship that time, holding Indian passport, PAN card and was a tax paying citizen. Our allotment of an apartment to Hajra was very legal, and there were no restrictions on dealing with her.”
A statement released by Patel stated, “There was nothing on record to suggest that there should be no dealing with Hajra Iqbal Memon. The Deed of Confirmation of 2007 was lodged for adjudication and registration by Hajra Memon, and no objection was raised by the stamp authorities.” The statement added, “Hajra Memon is an Income Tax payer with permanent account number. She must have been filing returns of income and disclosing the lease rent earned from the said premises. TDS [tax deducted at source] must have been deducted from time to time. The Income Tax Department is aware of the entire transaction including the subsequent licence fee collected by Hajra Memon.”