The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday searched an Andheri-based financial advisor, Jagdishprasad Purohit, who is alleged to have illegally converted Rs 46.7 crore for former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal through two shell firms — Kumaon Engineering Co Pvt Ltd and Sea Green Realtors Pvt Ltd. The ED conducted searches at three premises of Purohit, including his residence in suburban Mumbai under the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Purohit, according to ED sources, at one point ran 700 shell firms through 20 dummy directors. “As of now Purohit runs about 150 shell companies. We have unearthed several incriminating documents in the raid and are investigating other people linked to Purohit,” said an ED source. “At least two of these shell companies – Kumaon Engineering and Sea Green Realtors – were used to convert money for Bhujbal,” the source added.
The ED probe on Purohit pertains to the alleged kickbacks received by Bhujbal and his kin in lieu of extending favours to contractors in construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi and the Kalina Central Library in Mumbai. The agency had arrested the NCP leader on March 14, 2016 in connection with this case that has allegedly cost the state exchequer a loss of Rs 887 crore. The agency has claimed that the financial trail shows Bhujbal allegedly made around Rs 225 crore in the two contracts awarded when he held the portfolio of PWD minister between 2004 and 2014.
Bhujbal is currently in jail and the ED submitted draft charges against him in a Mumbai court on March 29. The agency has claimed that from 2006 onwards, Bhujbal, his nephew and their associates allegedly laundered Rs 4,264.25 crore. According to the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Kumaon Engineering was set up in May 1984, and has its registered office in Bhayandar East. Its authorised share capital is Rs 77 lakh and its paid-up capital is Rs 76.32 lakh. The firm is involved in manufacture of special purpose machinery. Sea Green Realtors was set up in September 2008 and has its registered office in Kandivali in sub-urban Mumbai. Its authorised share capital is Rs 17 lakh and its paid-up capital is Rs 16.29 lakh. It is involved in civil engineering. Purohit is the director of both these firms.
The ED has alleged that Bhujbal’s Mumbai Education Trust (MET) office in Bandra was the den where the proceeds of the crime were brought in and later laundered through front companies, which was later used by the Bhujbals for investing in real estate. The agency has enlisted at least 12 employees of the trust who were shown as directors in various fictitious firms floated by the Bhujbals. On June 17, 2015, the ED filed two FIRs under the PMLA against Bhujbal, Pankaj and Sameer for alleged money laundering. This was after the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) searched 26 properties of Chhagan Bhujbal as part of its investigation into alleged irregularities in the award of a contract of over Rs 100 crore for three projects in 2006 when Bhujbal was Deputy Chief Minister and PWD minister.
The contract awarded 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 in Malabar Hill, Mumbai. In May 2016, ACB registered a disproportionate assets case against Bhujbal and his family, accusing them of amassing wealth more than their known sources of income. The politician allegedly amassed Rs 203.24 crore between 1999 and 2014.