Irrigation scam: Trouble ahead for Ajit Pawar?
With the ED set to probe the Rs465-crore money trail after the Anti-Corruption Bureau this month filed a charge sheet in the Balganga project, the indications are that things may now get more difficult for Pawarmumbai Updated: Sep 02, 2016 01:16 IST
Is former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, accused of massive irregularities in Maharashtra’s multi-crore irrigation scam, headed down the same path as his party colleague Chhagan Bhujbal who was arrested by the enforcement directorate (ED) in March?
With the ED set to probe the Rs465-crore money trail after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) this month filed a charge sheet in the Balganga project, the indications are that things may now get more difficult for Pawar. The ACB charge sheet, which HT has accessed, did not name him but had made it clear that the politician had not got a clean chit. It had kept room open for further investigations.
The ACB charge sheet says the contractor, FA Enterprises was paid Rs465 crore (total cost of the project had been hiked to Rs1220 crore) until December 2013 to construct the Balganga Dam. The ACB said Rs344.16 crore had been diverted by the contractor to nine other companies of his in the name of sub contracting the works. The charge sheet states that many of these companies had no prior experience of such work.
The ED will now probe whether this money can be tracked back to any individuals including politicians involved in clearing the project. Ajit Pawar, who had cleared the project as water resources minister, has already been questioned in the Balganga project case.
While the ED has registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the charge sheet into the scam by the ACB, the first such in the irrigation scam, will help to give it a clear direction, a BJP minister told HT. He added that ED had been tasked to take the investigations into the Balganga dam scam to its logical end.
The investigators also suspect that mobilisation advance of Rs 25 crore, given illegally to the contractor and withdrawn in cash on the same day and the day after - October 9 and October 10, 2009 - was linked to kickbacks.
The mobilisation advance proposal of Rs 25 crore was approved by Ajit Pawar, then water resources minister, on a proposal presented by the Executive Director of the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) on May 15, 2009, just three days after the work order for the project was given.
The tender document had no provision for granting of such an advance and two months earlier on March 18, 2009, a demand for this advance had been refused by the legal advisor of KIDC. The contractor during his interrogation had said that the advance, paid in October 2009, was used to pay labour bills etc but the work on the dam started only in April 2010. Significantly, under the tender conditions the contractor was supposed to start the work only after completing land acquisition and rehabilitation of displaced families. In his defence on granting the mobilisation grant, Pawar had told the investigators ( as per the ACB charge sheet) that the proposal was presented by the Executive Director of the KIDC, an IAS rank level official, and it was assumed that a proposal tabled by him would have considered existing norms and laws.
On the whole, the contractor cashed out Rs110 crore from the payment done for the dam between October 2009 and May 2011, but much of this is unaccounted. His account books have no logs of where and how this money was spent.
“This entire gamut of investigations into the money trail, which includes investigating the nine companies further, checking their transactions with other companies or individuals, tracking this Rs25 crore of mobilisation advance will be done by the Enforcement Directorate. The role of Ajit Pawar in granting the mobilisation advance is suspect,’’ said a source associated with the investigation.
He added, “Once the investigation into other dams in Konkan proceeds, it will help us and the ED to see if there is a modus operandi in the way the scam was carried out and to join the dots.’’
The charge sheet will first be translated in English and then sent to ED. The nine companies where Rs 344.16 crore were invested by the contractor include ZAF (Rs 22.57 crore), FAC (Rs 203.74 crore), N F Construction and Engineers (Rs 27.65 crore), F A Master and Associates (Rs 38.47 crore), INK Infra (Rs 23.33 crore), National India Construction (Rs 12.67 crore), F A Infrastructure Ltd (Rs 5.84 crore), F A Enterprises ( Rs 4.67 crore), Z F Health care (Rs 5.22 crore).