In a major setback for NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the Enforcement Directorate has registered a money laundering case against him and his nephew and former deputy chief minister and Ajit Pawar and about 70 former functionaries of the Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank (MSCB) to probe an alleged Rs 25,000 crore scam. The case has been registered at a time when the state is heading for assembly elections.
When our correspondent Nikhil Sagare spoke to Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam he said, “Without going into the merit of the case I would like to make a statement that prima facie it looks like a politically motivated action. Because elections are around the corner before election such action are nothing but to throttle the opposition.”
Officials said an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) the equivalent of police FIR has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against all the accused. Enforcement Directorate has launched the probe on the basis of an FIR lodged by Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police following a Bombay High Court directive on August 22.
NCP Rajya Sabha MP and advocate Majeed Memon said, “Sharad Pawar is not involved in this case. Neither was he the member nor director of the bank. He has not taken any loan and has not given any surety. Look at the timing of the case. Since last eight days Sharad Pawar has been getting good response from rural Maharashtra which had created worries among Sena and BJP. ED and Income Tax department should work independently.”
The case is based on 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 co-operative bank. Sharad Pawar a former chief minister of Maharashtra has been named in the ED FIR on the basis of the police FIR. It is understood that the accused will soon be summoned by the agency to record their statements.
The money laundering case has been registered against the then chairman, managing directors and directors of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank along with Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar, Diliprao Deshmukh, Isharlal Jain, Jayant Patil, Shivaji Rao Nalvade, Anandrao Adsul, Rajendra Shingane, Madan Patil and others, said an agency official.
The Mumbai Police last month had registered an FIR against Ajit Pawar and other functionaries in the MSCB scam case on the directions of the Bombay High Court. The accused were allegedly complicit in causing losses to the tune of Rs 1000 crore to MSCB between 2007 and 2011.
It is alleged that the then top executives and managerial staff of the bank conspired with office bearers and directors of cooperative sugar factories and Soot Girnis to give out loans in a fraudulent manner. There were irregularities in the loan disbursements to co-operative sugar factories and loans were sanctioned despite them having weak financials. In many cases loans were sanctioned without any collateral. The cooperative sugar factories were allegedly sold to close relatives of certain politicians. The loans were provided to the factories despite their weak financials and negative net worth whose owners had alleged links with the bank officials.
An inspection by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as well as chargesheet filed by a quasi judicial inquiry commission under the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies (MCS) Act had earlier blamed the “decisions, actions and inactions” of Pawar and other accused for losses.
The NABARD audit report revealed breach of several banking laws and RBI guidelines by the accused in distribution of loans to sugar factories and spinning mills and subsequent default on repayment and recovery of such loans.