Rs 870 crore money trail: Why the Bhujbals are under scanner

Since 2009, former Maharashtra deputy CM and PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal has faced charges in award of contracts. Now comes the first arrest, of his nephew Sameer Bhujbal.

Written by Khushboo Narayan | Mumbai | Updated: February 3, 2016 10:40 am
Sameer Bhujbal, bhujbal corruption, Bhujbals in corruption, bhujbals ED, india news, Chhagan Bhujbal, bhujbal acb Vishakha, Pankaj, Bobby Deol, Akshay Kumar, Sameer Bhujbal and Chhagan Bhujbal. Express archive

Why has Sameer Bhujbal been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED)?

Sameer Bhujbal is a former MP and nephew of former Maharashtra deputy chief minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal. Sameer also controls several private firms floated by the Bhujbal family along with Chhagan Bhujbal’s son Pankaj Bhujbal. The ED has alleged that the books of accounts of some of these firms reflect unexplained transactions which, the agency suspects, are nothing but “kickbacks received by the Bhujbals”. Sameer, who was summoned by the ED to explain these transactions, reportedly evaded the department’s questions and hence was arrested under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

What are the kickbacks the ED is referring to?

On June 17, 2015, the ED filed a case under the PMLA against Chhagan Bhujbal and his kin for money laundering. This was after the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) searched 26 properties of Chhagan Bhujbal as part of its investigations into alleged irregularities in the award of a contract of over Rs 100 crore for three projects in 2006 when Bhujbal was deputy CM and PWD minister. The contact which was given to M/s Chamankar Developers included construction of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi, a new Regional Transport Office (RTO) building in Andheri, and a state guest house at High Mount, Malabar Hill, Mumbai. It is alleged the contracts were awarded without following rules and that, in return, firms and trusts controlled by the Bhujbal family received kickbacks.

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What was the trigger for the ACB probe?

In 2012, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya approached the ACB seeking an inquiry against Bhujbal in the Maharashtra Sadan case. Later, Anjali Damania, then with the Aam Aadmi Party, filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court seeking an FIR against Bhujbal and alleging that between February 12, 2010, and January 20, 2012, Chamankar Enterprises gave Rs 74.10 lakh to Ideen Furniture, whose directors are Vishaka Bhujbal, wife of Bhujbal’s son Pankaj, and Shefali Bhujbal, wife of his nephew Sameer.

Earlier, a 2009 CAG report had passed strictures against the Bhujbal-led PWD and other state departments for “acts of omission and commission”, allegedly leading to a windfall gain for the contractor, leading to the constitution of a Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

While the ACB pegs the losses to the government from the three projects at Rs 2,867.25 crore, the PAC had pegged the notional loss to the government at Rs 5,000-6,000 crore.

What had been done after the ACB probe?

The ACB submitted a report to the government on October 14, 2014, a day before Maharashtra went to polls. On October 22, even as the BJP was contemplating an offer of “unconditional” outside support from the NCP, the Home Department sanctioned an open inquiry.

On December 19, 2014, following a Bombay High Court order, an SIT was set up to probe the allegations. On June 11, 2015, the ACB registered an FIR against Chhagan Bhujbal and 16 others, three days after it had filed a separate FIR against Bhujbal in connection with alleged irregularities in the contract given for the construction of a library in Kalina, central Mumbai.

The same week, the Navi Mumbai police registered an FIR against Pankaj and Sameer Bhujbal for alleged fraud in the Hex World housing society case.

The Bombay High Court on January 28 sought progress reports from the ACB and ED in four weeks on their probe against Bhujbal and his family members.

How many charges do Chhagan Bhujbal and his kin face?

The agencies are investigating nine charges against the Bhujbals. Some of them include allegations pertaining to redevelopment of MIG colony in Bandra and alleged kickbacks to Parvesh Constructions, a company where Pankaj and Sameer Bhujbal are directors, allegations of corruption in awarding several contracts such as for State Central Library on the Kalina campus of Mumbai University, for Mumbai-Nashik toll road and bridges among others. The ED is also probing transfer of Rs 30 crore from the account of Armstrong Energy Pvt Ltd to two of its wholly-owned companies Armstrong Global and Armstrong Infrastructure in Singapore. Pankaj and Sameer are the directors of Armstrong Energy Pvt Ltd.

What happens next?

On Monday, the ED searched nine properties owned by Chhagan Bhujbal and his family in Mumbai, including the Mumbai Education Trust, an institute run by the Bhujbals in Bandra, as part of its investigations under the PMLA. The ED has attached properties of over Rs 280 crore belonging to the Bhujbal family. According to ED officials, it may arrest more people for alleged money laundering in the case for probe.

What is Bhujbal’s defence?

The Bhujbals have alleged political vendetta by the BJP-Shiv Sena government. On Monday, at a press conference, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the Bhujbal family is being targeted and accused the government of “ blatant misuse of power”.

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  1. S
    Feb 3, 2016 at 7:34 am
    Congress, Congress B Team, Congress C Team............ all congressis are so corrupt and looted this country more than any Mughals or Britishers has done!!! Sad part is so-called Sickulars and Presutes are enjoying our country getting raped and is a part of this cloud!!! Hope NAMO is given a stronger hand to stop this forever.......
    1. S
      Feb 3, 2016 at 6:58 am
      There should be a law that if any public official or politician indulge in corruption which has caused non-recoverable and huge losses to public exchequer, then total property of such person and his kins should be attached with minimum 20 years of jail..
      1. T
        Feb 3, 2016 at 7:14 am
        Tatte dabey Sameer key cheekh nikhali Sharad key
        1. A
          Feb 4, 2016 at 9:44 am
          Bhujbal is great leader , true fighter who trapped by his closed . fadnavis and sommaya are useless dogss . they never worked for Public nor they have any legacy behind than barking . . useless BJP will destroy great state like maharshtra one day .
          1. C
            Col S
            Feb 3, 2016 at 2:56 am
            PUBLIC is disillusioned and DEVASTATED , seeing the unaccounted wealth wealth of NETAs . Time everty is made ACCOUNTABLE and punished for wrong doing. INVESTIGATING agencies must STOP MEDIA leakage and DELIVER RESULT. They gather news for some days and DECLARE" NO EVIDRNCE FOUND"
            1. D
              Feb 4, 2016 at 3:52 pm
              Hope the case is expedited and exemplary punishment is awarded to the guilty.
              1. D
                Feb 3, 2016 at 6:01 am
                These guys Chhagan and his son Magan Bhujbal should be hung by Supreme Court and their bodies hung from Matoshri Building to keep both Congress and Shiv Sena Goondas for stealing public money.
                1. R
                  Feb 3, 2016 at 9:35 am
                  BJP once again doing the RIGHT thing.
                  1. K
                    khalil gibran
                    Feb 3, 2016 at 10:27 am
                    scoundrels and enemies of the country. should be eliminated by a true Hindustani.
                    1. H
                      Haren Shah
                      Feb 3, 2016 at 8:07 am
                      Bhujbals are all students of SP (Sharad Pawar) school. Apparently, they snoozed during some of the cles and that made them get caught!! AP is another one. All these Senior 'students' never dealt with the amounts lower than few thousand crores! Anything below 100 crores must in their K.G. curriculum !! Irrigation scam was almost caught. Why delay in arrests so far? On a larger picture, all tributaries are expected to end up in the ocean (SP). The challenge is to establish that flow. Hope the politics of support does not take off the focus.
                      1. H
                        Feb 3, 2016 at 11:01 pm
                        Just imagine the scale of Loot by a Minister in Maha Govt. Congress allowed this loot and Pawar is calling it vendetta. Its time Ajit Pawar is arrested for Irrigation scam as well. Kirit Sommayya was behind this expose and deserves Credit for it.
                        1. K
                          kamath Ramesh
                          Feb 3, 2016 at 10:53 am
                          Pawar is fully correct in what he is saying. It is absolutely wrong if there is vengeance in the actions and the actions have to be on facts. However Pawar should explain how Bhujbal amed so much wealth disproportionate to their income. Have courts also acted in vengeance in allowing ACB and ED to raid and keep them under custody. Do Pawar say any honest govt has no right to initiate action on the corrupt political leaders. If some govt because of its own compulsion has not acted earlier, does it infer that subsequent govts should not take action on such cases. It is true that such investigation puts person under lot of inconvenience but nation has seen how some govts have indulged in corrupt cases and without investigation and raids they would not have become the light of the day.
                          1. K
                            Feb 3, 2016 at 4:17 am
                            Bhujbal et el small fries has any one guts to go after pawars?
                            1. N
                              Apr 25, 2016 at 3:18 pm
                              Sour Grapes ?
                              1. M
                                madan gupta
                                Feb 3, 2016 at 3:28 am
                                भुजबल ने बहुत माल हज़म किया है. उल्टा टांग कर आग लगा दो.
                                1. M
                                  M D Pai
                                  Feb 3, 2016 at 9:14 am
                                  Maharastra is probably the only state in India where there has been informal understanding among the politicians about the policy of “ Khao and Khane Ko Do” This was followed till Mr.Devendra Fadnavis become Chief Minister. There are several political leaders from Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena who were just ordinary persons when they entered politics and have now become multi millioners. There has been no single case filed against these leaders by previous Congress/NCP Govt.This practice and policy is now broken by the Fadnavis Govt.Mr.Sharad Pawar was right when he said that even when Shiv Sena Govt was in power earlier, they did not indulge in “Political vendetta”. Mr.Fadnavis is following zero tolerance policy of Mr.Modi when it comes to corruption. All right thinking people should support the Fadnavis Govt.
                                  1. M
                                    Meenal Mamdani
                                    Feb 3, 2016 at 4:00 am
                                    Of course when politicians are called to account for their misdeeds, then it is the innocents being victimized for political reasons. Does anyone remember the Telgi scam? Bhujbal was reportedly one of the chief accused by Telgi but as Congress-NCP were in power, nothing came of the investigation. Telgi must be thanking his lucky starts that he was not bumped off. Perhaps his silence re Bhujbal was bought by NCP to prevent exposure of other higher ups in NCP. In 2014, NCP's offer to support BJP without conditions was seen to be what it was, a bribe to protect Ajit Pawar. Hats off To Pawar. His political moves are superlative. Doubt NCP will survive after him.
                                    1. N
                                      Nagar Iyer
                                      Feb 3, 2016 at 5:33 am
                                      This is a peanut. NDA Government has already got the trail of 15000 crore belonging to MAFIA MA, several billion dollars of Pappu, Oscar Fernan-des etc. These disclosures will be used for political purposes to undermine the opposition's campaign.
                                      1. M
                                        Feb 3, 2016 at 8:02 am
                                        @Patriot - Stop reading Muslim non-Muslim into every action. You should be glad that corrupt politicians are being brought to book. They have eaten enough free lunch and destro the fabric of the nation. I am not saying that BJP is above board and I am no blind bhakt of BJP - but if we Indians suspect every action of an elected Govt then we will always be exploited by clever corrupt politicians. Let's criticize - but do it objectively! Jai Hind.
                                        1. i
                                          Feb 3, 2016 at 9:27 am
                                          You forgot to add the names of Sharad Powar and his family members Ajit Powar etc who did irrigation scam of INR70000 crores and abused for the poverty in society to the savarns specially Brahmins but what these politicians doing since 68 years who are in power but only looted money for their own.
                                          1. P
                                            Feb 3, 2016 at 7:55 am
                                            Join the fight for spl. Status Srikakulam: Appealing the youth to join the fight for achieving special status to the State which is the only way to put the state on the path of development, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has said that Chandrababu Naidu has been putting his personal agenda ahead of state interests and has not been questioning the Centre on the issue. stories/join-the-fight-for-spl-status
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