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More trouble for Maharashtra BJP leader Khadse? Kin bank transactions under lens

Activist Anjali Damania and two others filed a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Pune, seeking a probe into the sources of income of the Khadses and specifically into transactions in the bank accounts of Eknath Khadse, his wife Mandakini, his daughter-in-law and BJP MP Raksha and daughter Sharda Chaudhari

mumbai Updated: Aug 19, 2017 18:33 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,Eknath Khadse,BJP
The complaint alleged that while senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse claimed agriculture was his only source of income other than public office, there had been “huge inflow of funds into his bank accounts”.(FIle photo)

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Eknath Khadse, who had to quit as Maharashtra revenue minister in June last year following allegations of wrongdoing in a land deal, may be headed for more trouble amid speculation of a political comeback ahead of the 2019 polls.

Activist Anjali Damania and two others filed a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Pune, on Thursday seeking a probe into the sources of income of the Khadses under the Prevention of Corruption Act and specifically into transactions in the bank accounts of Eknath Khadse, his wife Mandakini Khadse, his daughter-in-law and BJP MP Raksha Khadse and daughter Sharda Chaudhari.

The complaint alleged that while Khadse claimed agriculture was his only source of income other than public office, there had been “huge inflow of funds into his bank accounts”. It listed five primary accounts of the family besides naming four companies to be investigated.

‘’Why is Mrs Damania making allegations against me only for media consumption when she has already filed a petition in the court? These charges are completely false. I have no connection with any such company or companies. And, transferring money in my wife’s account cannot be a crime,” said Khadse. He said there were 27 defamation cases filed against the activist and her charges should not be taken seriously. The senior leader also claimed that there was a political conspiracy behind such allegations. ‘’Why is there no hue and cry by her against [ Shiv Sena senior and industries minister] Subhash Desai, who faces allegations of corruption that run into hundreds of crores whereas this [Bhosari] plot was worth Rs4 crore,’’ Khadse asked.

Damania’s complaint pointing out that in the first five months of 2016, Mandakini Khadse’s account with IDBI bank was credited with Rs3.84 crore, while Khadse’s account in the same bank was credited with Rs1.41 crore. The complaint seeks to link the Bhosari land deal with the bank transactions stating that Mandakini Khadse’s account got flush with funds in the month April 2016, which was used to pay the stamp duty and the registration on the Bhosari land on April 27, 2016. This included Rs50 lakh transfer from her husband’s two accounts with IDBI and State Bank of India, and Rs 1.55 crore from a firm called Benchmark Buildcon.

The minister’s family had paid stamp duty of Rs1.37 crore on the Bhosari plot and this can be tracked from Mandakini Khadse’s account. The plot was purchased for Rs3.75 crore even though the market value of the land was nearly Rs31 crore, the complaint said.

‘’We have received the complaint and now senior officials will see if such a case can be considered,” said PN Hasabnis, Superintendent of Police with the Pune ACB.

‘’The former minister’s claim that he was not aware of the transaction (of the land deal), was not part of it and that the property was purchased by other members of his family does not hold good,” said the complaint. Khadse had claimed that he was not aware of his family purchasing the plot until the issue surfaced in the media.

The complaint has also sought probe in dealings between the Khadses and four firms, Angira Buildcon, Benchmark Buildcon, Muktai Fibres and Allied and Bhavnagar-Muktai GBS Pathsanstha. It further points out that Benchmark Buildcon, which had transferred money into the account of the Khadses had 41 shareholders, out which only five were from Maharashtra. They hold 13,700 shares in all. The remaining 4.56 lakh-odd shares are held by 36 companies from Kolkata, which is generally seen as the haven for shell companies.

“The bank accounts need to be verified by the ACB to arrive at what the sources of Khadse’s income were and if they were legal. There is a clear link between the transactions and the purchase of the Bhosari plot. Such a probe into bank accounts is warranted as per section 13 of the Prevention of the Corruption Act, if the public servant cannot satisfactorily account for his resources,’’ said Damania.

Damania has filed a petition in the High Court against Khadse over a slew of alleged irregularities including the sale of the Bhosari plot. It has not yet been admitted. The state government had constituted the one-man Dinkar Zoting Commission to probe this case. The Zoting Commission report was submitted in June this year but the state government has not yet made its findings public.

The ACB had filed a First Information Report against Khadse, his wife Mandakini, and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari in April this year and are investigating the Bhosari land deal case that cost Khadse his job. His wife and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari bought a hectare in Bhosari in Pune, which the industries department claimed was notified for industrial use with departments rights even registered in the land records. The industries department had notified but not acquired this land from the owner by paying him a compensation.

Khadse as revenue minister had convened a meeting with industries and revenue officials on April 12, 2016, to discuss this plot and had recommended compensation to the owner for this land as per the New Land Acquisition Law.

The land was purchased the same month by Khadse’s kin for Rs3.75 crore from the original owner, whereas the market value was around Rs31 crore. Instead of paying stamp duty of 5 per cent, Khadse’s family paid up stamp duty of nearly 36 per cent on April 27, when they registered the land deal.

The Pune based activist, who first exposed this matter, Hemant Gawande, alleged that the former minister was eyeing compensation from the government for this plot under the new Land Acquisition Law, which would have been in the range of Rs80 crore or more.

In his defence, Khadse had first claimed that the deal was not illegal as the industries department had failed to acquire the plot despite notifying it decades back. He had said the meeting with officials was held after the original owner of the plot made a complaint to him about not being paid compensation. He later told the Zoting Commission that he was not aware of this land deal until it came to light in the media.

First Published: Aug 19, 2017 18:33 IST