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Money laundering: Sent to 2-day custody, Chhagan Bhujbal cries ‘victim’

Says contract awarded by panel headed by then CM Deshmukh, ensured Rs 110 cr benefit to state.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
March 16, 2016 12:00:32 am
chhagan bhujbal, chhagan bhujbal case, money laundering, chhagan bhujbal cbi case, acb, anti corruption bureau, chhagan bhujbal corruption case, NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, bhujbal bribe, chhagan bhujbal property, mumbai news, india news The ACB booked Chhagan Bhujbal and five others.

A day after his arrest in a money laundering case, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court sent former Maharashtra deputy chief minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal to the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) custody for two days.

A teary-eyed Bhujbal told the court that the contract was awarded by a high-powered committee chaired by then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The contract, he claimed, had benefited the state government Rs 110 crore since the developer constructed two properties — Maharashtra Sadan and Andheri RTO — in lieu of the SRA project awarded to him.

ED’s counsel Hiten Venegaonkar, however, argued that Bhujbal was the “prime mover” in the generation of funds to the tune of Rs 887 crore, laundered in various companies floated by Sameer and Pankaj Bhujbal, the NCP leader’s nephew and son, respectively.

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The ED claimed that the Mumbai Education Trust’s (MET) Bandra office was the den where proceeds of the alleged crime were brought and later laundered through front companies. The money was later used by the Bhujbals for investing in real estate, the agency claimed. Bhujbal is chairman of MET.

The agency said it has enlisted at least 12 MET employee, who were shown as directors in various dubious firms allegedly controlled by the Bhujbals, where the alleged laundered money was transferred.

To assert its claim, Venegaonkar read out excerpts from statements given by a former employee, Amit Biraj. The ED’s remand copy stated: “…He (Biraj) witnessed two huge leather bags containing cash in Indian currency being brought to the ninth floor office of MET. The money was counted by currency-counting machine and kept at the cash room of MET office…each bag used to contain approximately Rs 1 crore…a few times he had heard Sameer (Bhujbal) instructing his associates about some persons bringing cash to MET building.”

The agency plans to confront the senior Bhujbal with nephew Sameer, a co-accused arrested on February 1 and currently lodged in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail. They also want to confront Bhujbal with the witness — a former employee of his Trust who helped the agency build its case.

The counsel said Bhujbal was not disclosing the source of funds and was silent about his relation with the contractors he had purportedly favoured when he held the PWD portfolio.

In its remand application, the ED stated that K S Chamankar Enterprises had paid Rs 6.03 crore to Origin Infrastructure and later the sub-contractor, Prime Builders and Developers, had also paid Rs 18.50 crore in that account. Funds transferred from Prime Builders, partners of Chamankar, to entities controlled by Bhujbals are quid pro quo for sanctioning and awarding the Maharashtra Sadan/RTO Project, the application stated.

Pleading that he was victim of vendetta politics, Bhujbal spoke for a little over 10 minutes in his defence. “In 1999-2000,” he said, “the cabinet discussed the SRA project where Chamankar was proposed as the developer as 70 per cent had given consent to him for redevelopment. CM Vilasrao asked me to conduct meeting concerning the project as there was some encroached land of RTO also in the project…. When the meetings took place, officials from law and judiciary, finance, planning, revenue and home (departments) were present… In fact, getting Maharashtra Sadan, Hill Mount guesthouse and quarters for RTO staff was a big achievement….the CM (had) applauded me for getting the project done as it had benefitted the exchequer. Why would Chamankar pay me money? FSI is given by UDD and SRA departments.”

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