Slum redevelopment ‘scam’: ED to summon Baba Siddique again

The former MLA had been questioned on June 9 by the agency for over nine hours, but the ED is not satisfied with his answers.

Written by Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai | Published: June 16, 2017 1:57 am
Baba Siddique According to sources, Siddique would be called again by the end of this month to join the investigation.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) plans to summon former Congress Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Baba Siddique once again in the alleged multi-crore scam being probed by the agency. The former MLA had been questioned on June 9 by the agency for over nine hours, but the ED is not satisfied with his answers. According to sources, Siddique would be called again by the end of this month to join the investigation. “There are many points on which Siddique hasn’t given a clear reply. Also, he has not come out clean on his interest in the firm which bagged the project. We had confronted him on the statements given by the directors of the firm but what Siddique says doesn’t add up,” a senior official from the agency who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, a day after his questioning, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya had sent a letter to the ED on June 10, asking the ED to probe Siddique on various counts. In his letter, Somaiya has alleged that the fraud is valued at Rs 1,000 crore, with Siddique misusing his position as the chairman of MHADA. The letter, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, also states that “lacs of square feet forged FSI”. “We have received his letter, but the investigation has already begun and we are looking into all those allegations, specifically the charges of money laundering,” added the source.

The central agency is probing if Siddique, as the chairman of MHADA between 2000 and 2004, misused his position to help Pyramid Developers bag a SRA project that was being developed in Bandra. The ED is also investigating if Pyramid Developers is a front company floated by the Congress leader and the money made through the sale of flats were laundered to create assets. A case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA),2002 has been registered against Siddique and others by the ED.

According to sources, while the alleged scam is pegged at Rs 2,000 crore, the agency is currently concentrating on Rs 100 crore which it suspects the developer made by selling a few flats in the under-construction project located in one of the prime real estates of suburban Mumbai. “We have interrogated his aide in the past, who has revealed that a few flats have already been sold by the developer. Going by the aide’s statement, Siddique was quizzed specifically on the money earned through the sale of these flats,” said another senior official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The predicate offence was registered by the Mumbai Police in March 2014. Based on the complaint filed by a resident Abdul Salaam in 2012, the Bandra police registered a case against Siddique and 150 others for alleged irregularities in allotment of houses in the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) project. The police action was initiated after a metropolitan magistrate court ordered a probe into the case. Explaining the irregularities, a source revealed that the development of the project under SRA scheme was undertaken by Pyramid Developers at the cost of Rs 90 crore.

Subsequently, Pyramid Developers sold the plot to Satra group and the two entered a joint development agreement which included equal sharing of the flats. This allowed each of the developers the rights to sell 40 flats each. The agency suspect that the revenue generated by the sale of these super-luxury-apartments would be around Rs 1,800-2,000 crore. Sources claim, Siddique, who was the chairman of MHADA between 2000 and 2004, allegedly misused his position to increase the FSI.

Asked whether a custodial interrogation was required, the source added that the decision will be taken after evaluating his responses. “There is ample evidence to indict Siddique. We will seek the said remedy only if we find that he is not cooperating with us and evading investigation,” added the source. Last month, ED had carried out searches at seven different locations in connection with the case.

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