For a long time, Patra Chawl hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. A few weeks ago, The Enforcement Directorate arrested a Maharashtra-based businessman Pravin Raut in a money-laundering probe linked to a Rs 1,034 crore land ‘scam’ related to the re-development of a ‘chawl’ in Mumbai.
The Enforcement Directorate has claimed before a special PMLA court that Pravin Raut made payments to a “politically exposed person” and is “acting as a front” or in collusion with some influential people. Raut, arrested by the ED on February 2 under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), was produced before the court after the end of his initial remand. The court extended his ED custody till Friday.
The case against him applies to alleged irregularities in the sale of FSI (floor space index) of a plot by a firm, linked to him, which is a subsidiary company of the Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd. The HDIL is under investigation by the ED and a few other agencies in connection with an alleged fraud of about Rs 4,300 crore at the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank.
Pravin Raut, a former director of a company called Guru Ashish Construction Pvt Ltd found involved in the offence of money laundering and unearth the money trail and the siphoning of funds running into more than 1,000 crores. Guru Ashish Construction Pvt Ltd is a subsidiary company of Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL). The HDIL is under investigation by the ED and a few other agencies in connection with the around Rs 4,300 crore alleged fraud at the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank.
Pravin Raut along with Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan and Sarang Wadhawan, directors of Guru Ashish Constructions Pvt Ltd, in connivance with others illegally sold FSI (floor space index) to various builders for Rs 1,034 crore. Raut, being the director of Guru Ashish Construction Pvt Ltd, has played an ”active role” in the re-development project, and in connivance with Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan and Sarang Wadhawan, managed to ”divert” the proceeds of crime of more than Rs 1,000 crore by ”harming” the interest of 672 tenants and buyers, the ED said.
The ED alleged that Raut, in 2010, received Rs 95 crore in his bank account in the ”guise of sale of equity and land deal though the company was not able to complete the project and had not generated any income. The Mumbai Police economic offences wing (EOW) had first filed an FIR to probe these allegations made in the re-development of the ‘chawl’.
The ED last year had also attached assets worth Rs 72 crore of Raut in connection with the PMC Bank money laundering case. It had then said that ”Rs 95 crore has been siphoned off through HDIL by one of the accused Pravin Raut in active conspiracy and connivance with various persons”.
It had been said that Pravin Raut ”paid an amount of Rs 1.6 crore to his wife Madhuri Pravin Raut from the proceeds of crime. Out of the said money, Madhuri Raut transferred Rs 55 lakh (Rs 50 lakh on December 23, 2010, and Rs 5 lakh on March 15, 2011) as an interest-free loan to Varsha Raut. The amount was further utilised for the purchase of a flat in Dadar East, Mumbai. The ED had filed a criminal case of money laundering in October 2020 to probe the alleged loan fraud in the PMC Bank and had booked HDIL, its promoters Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan, his son Sarang Wadhawan, its former chairman Waryam Singh and ex-managing director Joy Thomas.
Guruashish constructions had to develop flats for 672 tenants of Patra Chawl and about 3000 flats had to be handed over to MHADA. The total land parcel was 47 acres and the remaining land after handing over flats to MHADA and Patra Chawl tenants was to be allowed for sale and development by Guruashish constructions. Guruashish constructions did not redevelop the Patra chawl or any other flats that had to be handed over to MHADA and sold land parcels and FSI to around eight other builders for Rs 1,034 crores.
In March 2018, MHADA filed an FIR against Guruashish constructions. In February 2020 Pravin Raut was arrested by EOW, while Sarang Wadhawan was arrested by EOW in September same year. Pravin Raut was later released on bail. The ED registered an ECIR in the case and on February 1, the agency conducted searches at around seven places, including the residences offices of Pravin Raut.
Amid all this controversy Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar have decided to inaugurate Goregaon’s Siddharth Nagar, also known as Patra Chawl’s redevelopment project, which has been stalled for several years. The redevelopment of Patra chawl, spread across 47 acres, has been mired in controversy and 672 tenants of the chawl were left in the lurch.