A special court in Mumbai granted Sanjay Raut, a senior leader of the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray faction and one of his closes aides, bail today in a money laundering case, rejecting a request by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to stop his release. The loquacious politician and member of the Rajya Sabha have been in jail for the past three-and-a-half months.
The court had on 21 October reserved its order on the bail petition after hearing arguments from both sides.
“It is a happy day for us. Today is Diwali for our family. We trust the court,” Sanjay Raut’s brother Sandip Raut told reporters.
What were the allegations against Sanjay Raut?
The ED had taken Sanjay Raut into custody on 1 August in connection with alleged irregularities in the redevelopment of a residential colony in Mumbai. Before his arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Rajya Sabha MP had skipped the agency’s summons twice.
The ED case relates to the redevelopment of Patra Chawl in Goregaon where it has been claimed that instead of providing houses for displaced residents, directors of infrastructure company HDIL and a company named Guru Ashish Constructions cheated them. The central agency had alleged that the total amount of Rs 1039.70 crore was received in the accounts of HDIL and Guru Ashish Constructions and of which Rs 112 crore was received by co-accused, Pravin Raut.
After Sanjay Raut filed for bail — this was his first bail plea — the ED filed a supplementary charge sheet in the case naming the Rajya Sabha MP. The ED alleged that Raut was involved in the redevelopment project from the stage of its conception, alleging that he had attended meetings related to it dating back to 2006. The ED charge sheet alleged that Pravin was “able to liaise with government authorities and obtain approvals” from authorities “due to his closeness with Sanjay Raut”. The ED also alleged that the proceeds of the crime were used in buying land in Kihim in Alibaug.
“Redevelopment of Patra Chawl was to be done by Guru Ashish Construction Private Limited (GACPL) for 672 tenants with Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) but even before the construction GACPL sold the FSI to third-party developers for a sum of (Rs) 1,034 crore. This (Rs) 1,034 crore was an amount from proceeds of crime (POC) by the illegal and unauthorised sale of FSI to developers. Out of POC of 1034 crores, Praveen Raut got 112 crores in his bank account through Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL),” the ED said.
“The role of Sanjay Raut’s proxy and confidant Praveen Raut has been comprehensively brought out in the supplementary charge sheet filed on 15 September 2022. In order to avoid trial Sanjay Raut has been operating behind the curtains and Praveen Raut being his frontman,” the agency alleged. The ED claimed that Pravin was Raut’s “frontman” and alleged that the MP had received proceeds of crime through him. The agency had first alleged that Raut was a beneficiary of Rs 1.06 crore linked to the case, adding subsequently that a trail of Rs 2.25 crore was also later revealed in its probe.
How is his family involved in the alleged scam?
In February, Sanjay Raut’s daughters came under the scanner of the ED after the law enforcement agency carried out raids at their business partner Sujit Patkar’s residence pertaining to a land scam case of Rs 1034 crores.
Earlier, in January, the ED had attached assets worth Rs 72 crore of a Maharashtra-based man whose wife’s alleged transaction with Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut’s spouse is being investigated in connection with the over Rs 4,300 crore PMC Bank money laundering case.
What did his lawyers say in his defence?
Raut’s lawyers argued that in the main offence filed by the police based on which the ED case was registered, Mumbai Police had submitted in 2020 that there was no objection to the release of Pravin on bail and a closure report would be filed. The lawyers had also submitted that an explanation was provided of the money alleged to be proceeds of crime.
Why did the court grant bail?
The absence of objection from the police made the court grant bail to Sanjay Raut. The court said that the civil litigation, which was not a predicate offence, was the reason behind the arrests of Sanjay Raut and Pravin Raut. “I am of the prima-facie opinion that civil litigation is the reason for arrest and ECIR of both accused which is basically not a predicate offence. There is absolutely nothing to show that right from the inception in 2006-2007 Pravin Raut (A3) and also Sanjay Raut (A5) keeping himself (sic) behind the curtain, entered this project with a wise brain with an intention to fraudulently induce and cheat MHADA and 672 occupants thereof.”
“A1, A2 (Wadhawans) and their HDIL clearly admitted that their misdeeds caused delay and the same was acknowledged by the Hon’ble High Court when the MHADA too consented (to) it. All this has been ignored by ED and caused (the) arrest of both accused by the extreme use of power. In this way, both of them were illegally arrested under Sec. 19 of the PML Act.”