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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Pawar may not be allowed in ED office on 27 September

The agency had filed a case of money laundering against Pawar, his nephew and former Deputy chief minister of the state Ajit Pawar and about 70 others on 23 September to probe alleged irregularities in grant of loans and other processes

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is expected to not allow entry to NCP chief Sharad Pawar in its Mumbai office when he visits there on Friday to “submit information” related to the alleged Rs 25,000-crore worth scam in a Maharashtra cooperative bank. Pawar, an accused in the case, had on Wednesday said he would, on his own, visit the ED office at 2 PM on 27 September to submit “whatever information” has been sought in connection.

The ED officials, however, say that deciding to question any person or accused in a case is the prerogative of the “investigating officer” and such a decision is taken when there are reasons to do so.

Pawar has not been summoned yet, they said, adding he will be called for questioning and recording of the statement “whenever it is required”.

The agency, meanwhile, is in the process of gathering additional evidence and statements since the case was registered in connection with the alleged scam at the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB).

The federal probe agency, it is understood, has sought additional police security at its Mumbai zonal office in Ballard Estate in view of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief’s public declaration of visiting their office. The Mumbai office of the agency, which is probing some high-profile cases of money laundering like those involving Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, has separate depositions and other probe-related work scheduled on Friday and the agency officials will require a safe and secure environment to carry out their work, they said.

The agency has also sought certain documents from different agencies like banks that are involved in the case.

The ED, as part of its complaint filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), is probing allegations that the former top executives, chairmen, MDs, directors, CEOs and managerial staff of MSCB and office-bearers of cooperative sugar factories (CSF) were given loans in an illegitimate manner.

The agency had filed a PMLA case against Pawar, his nephew and former Deputy chief minister of the state Ajit Pawar and about 70 others on 23 September to probe alleged irregularities in grant of loans and other processes.

“There were several irregularities in the sanctioning of the loans committed with the only purpose of extending benefits to the directors of the leading bank for personal gains, thereby defrauding and cheating the MSCB and its shareholders,” the ED has said as part of its criminal complaint, adding, “The loans, it has said, were sanctioned to CSFs despite having “weak financials and negative net worth. No collateral was taken in many cases and loans were extended on the basis of fraudulent and dishonest representation to the bank.”

The ED case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR that had named the then directors of the bank, former deputy chief minister of the state Ajit Pawar and 70 former functionaries of the cooperative bank. Sharad Pawar, a former CM of Maharashtra, has been named in the ED complaint on the basis of the police FIR, they said.

The registration of the case came at a time when the state is poll-bound and voting is slated to be held on its 288 assembly seats in one phase on 21 October.

The Mumbai Police FIR that was filed in this case in August came about on the basis of a similar complaint registered by the state economic offences wing (EOW).

The Bombay High Court asked the EOW to file a case after a bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and SK Shinde said there was “credible evidence” against the accused in the case.

As per the police FIR, the state exchequer allegedly suffered losses to the tune of Rs 25,000 crore due to the MSCB scam between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2017.

The offence has been registered against the then chief ministers, deputy chief ministers, ministers, politicians, government officials, the then directors and senior officials of MSCB, district central bank, and directors of Pen Cooperative Bank, according to the FIR.

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