Maharashtra minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Nawab Malik has been sent to judicial custody till 21 March in the money-laundering case linked to fugitive gangster and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim. Earlier today, Malik was produced before the Special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after his extended custody with the central agency ended.
During the court hearing, the ED demanded the Maharashtra minister be sent to judicial custody.
Last week, Malik had moved the Bombay High Court with a plea seeking to quash the case lodged against him and also to direct the ED to declare his arrest as illegal. The court later sought a response from the central agency and adjourned the matter till today.
On 23 February, when Malik was arrested, he was sent to ED custody till 3 March. This was extended again last week till 7 March.
The central agency has alleged that the 62-year-old minister used to introduce fake tenants on properties bought with money belonging to Ibrahim in order to reduce the registration value of the land.
On the day of his arrest, Malik alleged that ED officials entered his residence and forcibly took him to their office. There were also reports that the minister was not cooperating during the interrogation process.
The NCP leader, however, has publicly spoken about not buckling in pressure and fighting the allegations by the ED. “Will fight, will win, and will expose everyone,” Malik had tweeted on 23 February soon after he was held by the federal agency.
The political scenario in Maharashtra has been tense following Malik’s arrest, with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders consistently increasing pressure on the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to sack the minister. NCP is in coalition with the Congress party and the Shiv Sena in the western state.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has refused to entertain calls to remove Malik from his state cabinet, and the MVA ruling dispensation has stood behind him.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has said that his party member is being targetted by the BJP and connecting him with Ibrahim because he is a “Muslim”.