The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday arrested Humayun Merchant, a close aide of underworld don Iqbal Mirchi. His arrest may increase the problems of NCP leader Praful Patel as the ED is also preparing to attach a 15-storey property Ceejay House in Mumbai, which is linked to Patel. Former Union minister Patel has already been interrogated by the ED on October 18 for more than 12 hours in the case related to investigation of properties of drug smuggler Iqbal Mirchi.
When our correspondent Nikhil Sagare spoke to Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Raju Waghmare said, “Just ahead of election powerful leaders are arrested. Media trail is taken of Chidambaram and later on bail is granted to him. The BJP government is using Enforcement Directorate, CBI and police to damage the opposition.”
According to sources, Praful Patel can be sent to jail. That too with serious charges of conspiring with underworld dons. After counting of votes on October 24 and formation of new government in the state, perhaps he will be arrested. It is remarkable that when NCP president Sharad Pawar volunteered to meet the ED whole Maharashtra was set on fire. But nobody from the NCP seems even supporting Praful Patel. Sharad Pawar was expected to strongly protest questioning Patel by the ED which he has not done. So, speculations are rife that Praful Patel will become another ‘Bhujbal’ and the NCP letting him down?
Shiv Sena spokesperson Arvind Bhosale said, “I can’t comment on this matter and you can ask me about voting.”
Till the Maharashtra and Haryana Assemblies elections got over, Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram was kept inside the jail. Was that insecurity of BJP? Because, as soon as, the elections got over in these states, he got bail on Tuesday from the Supreme Court and he may be released sooner or later. The reason behind this is that now there is no threat. Was it a BJP’s strategy to damage the Congress? As they kept Chhagan Bhujbal inside the jail and they got nothing, the same thing goes with P Chidambaram. No evidence has been found against them. After talking about NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, they were supposed to grill him. But Sharad Pawar himself approached the ED and foiled their strategy. Now BJP is targeting Praful Patel. The BJP has accused him of having link with D-company. Is it a strategy of the BJP to damage the rival political parties and finish the opposition?
Former NCP MP Madhukar Kukde said, “Democracy is finished in this country. During elections NCP has to face odd situation on account of Praful Patel episode. Such allegations have damaged the image of the party. They are attempting to end the constitution written by Babasaheb Ambedkar.”
As per reports, Praful Patel has accepted that he made deals with the family members of Iqbal Mirchi. But he told the ED during questioning that he was unaware Iqbal Memon alias Iqbal Mirchi was the same man. Thus, he was completely in dark about Hajra Memon (Mirchi’s wife), when the deal between the Millenium Developers was signed with Memon. The deal was done between Mirchi’s family and Millenium Developers, which is owned by Patel and his wife Varsha.
It is worth mentioning that Iqbal Mirchi was a member of Dawood’s gang and his properties are under investigation in India and abroad. Humayun Merchant is a close friend of Iqbal Mirchi. He was arrested by the ED because he held the power of attorney to strike deals on behalf of underworld don Iqbal Mirchi. It is a first big arrest in this case. Humanyu Merchant was mainly involved in the land deal of Worli in Mumbai.
Investigation agencies have been probing properties held by Iqbal Mirchi, who died in 2013 in London. They have traced his half-a-dozen properties in India and around 25 properties in foreign lands.
Documents available with the ED show that Praful Patel’s Millenium Developers 15-storey Ceejay House is situated on the land owned by Iqbal Mirchi. Documents show the Ceejay House was constructed as a joint venture between Mirchi and Patels-owned Millenium Developers. Praful Patel could not deny the documents held by the ED. The claim of his family proved wrong that this land was with them since 1963 and it has nothing to do with Iqbal Mirchi. Praful Patel has told media that Mirchi’s wife Hajra had purchased two floors on Ceejay House through one MK Mohammad. The ED has also arrested Haroun Yusuf and Ranjeet Singh Bindra in this case, who are related to this deal.
According to the ED official, apart from Ceejay House, Iqbal Mirchi’s other benami properties in Mumbai are also under investigation. They will also be seized. After this, the process of confiscating Dubai and London-based properties will begin. Iqbal Mirchi had created all these assets from the black money earned from the drug smuggling business and there is a provision for confiscation of them under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The ED has so far unearthed several assets of Iqbal Mirchi worth more than two thousand crore rupees in India and abroad.