THE MAHARASHTRA Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Monday filed a 17,300-page chargesheet against NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and six others in connection with the Mumbai University library building case.
Bhujbal is alleged to have received kickbacks for favouring a particular developer for construction of the library and leased out prime government land at a throwaway price.
While the FIR had named six persons, the ACB probe found that the Chartered Accountant (CA) hired by the Public Works Department (PWD) was also a part of the conspiracy and named him as an accused as well.
The ACB case against Bhujbal, who was PWD minister in 2009 when the scam is alleged to have taken place, and the other accused is that they caused losses to the state exchequer by leasing out land in Kalina to a private developer.
The tendering process was rigged to favour a particular developer who was then leased a portion of the land for 99 years at the rate of Rs 1 per square metre in lieu of constructing the library. Bhujbal allegedly received kickbacks from the developer through donations to one of his foundations, the ACB alleged.
The ACB is still probing the case and if they find evidence against the developer, they could file a supplementary chargesheet.
Sources said CA Ravindra Sawant was hired by the PWD for assessment of financial bids made by various companies for construction of a public library for the university. During the tendering process, certain companies were disqualified on technical grounds and eventually it came down to two companies. The company awarded the contract did not meet the ‘turnover criterion’ required to be eligible to get the contract, a source said.
A source said the second company met all criteria but was not awarded the contract.
The irony is that eventually, the company that won the contract sub contracted it to the second company – that was eligible but did not win the bid due to tendering process being rigged.
“The CA whose job it was to ensure that the entire procedure was carried out as per rules did not do so. Hence he has been named as part of the conspiracy that resulted in losses to the state exchequer,” a source said.
In all, the ACB has 63 witness statements, including that of former Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad who had then raised objections concerning the scam. Apart from the statements, the ACB has documentary proof in the form of the paper trail left behind when the scam was being carried out. For example, the five feasibility reports prepared by some employees of the PWD – also chargesheeted in the case – have varied figures for how much the construction of library would cost.
“Within a span of six months, three feasibility reports were submitted by the accused. The cost estimation of the third report was 90 per cent more than that of the first report. Within a span of six months, such a change in cost is not possible. All these changes were made to favour a particular company.
The feasibility reports have been made part of the chargesheet that will clearly prove that rules were blatantly flouted,” a source said.
In a statement, Chhagan Bhujbal’s counsel Sajal Yadav said, “….PWD Minister had no discretion whatsoever in selecting the contractor or in determining the benefits to be conferred onto him in the tender…”
The ACB had last month filed a chargesheet against Bhujbal in connection with the Maharashtra Sadan scam. Bhujbal is lodged in the Arthur Road jail in connection with a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). He will be in judicial custody till March 31.