The Pune Police on Monday told a city court that it had completed the questioning of Ravindra Prabhakar Marathe, the arrested CEO and managing director of Bank of Maharashtra, and would not seek his further custody. The police stance, which came on the same day a senior Finance Ministry official said in Mumbai that the banker’s arrest was an “aberration”, raises chances of Marathe getting bail when the court decides on his plea on Tuesday.
Marathe, his predecessor Sushil Muhnot, and two other senior officials of the Bank of Maharashtra were arrested by the Economic Offences Wing of the Pune Police on June 20 for their alleged role in sanctioning a loan to the troubled DSK Group that is being investigated for cheating and fraud.
All arrested bank officials had been sent to police custody till June 27. Marathe, however, was later put in magisterial custody on health grounds. He had to be taken to a hospital twice — on the day he was arrested and then again on Saturday. After the second time he was hospitalised, the police had told the court that Marathe could be moved to magisterial custody. The banker had applied for bail a day earlier, claiming that his arrest by Pune police was “illegal”.
Arguing his case in the court of special judge R N Sardesai, senior lawyer Harshad Nimbalkar on Monday said the Pune Police’s case against the DSK Group was regarding transactions between the company and its investors, and that neither Marathe nor the Bank of Maharashtra were in any way connected to it. The DSK Group is accused of cheating its investors of over Rs 2,000 crore. The group denies the charges.
“Marathe or Bank of Maharashtra is not even remotely linked with the investors. No investor has invested even a single rupee with Marathe or the bank. There is no transaction of money between investors and the bank and its officers,” Nimbalkar said.
Pune Police claimed that there were irregularities in the loan granted by the Bank of Maharashtra to DSK Developers Limited (DSKDL), a group company, and that Marathe and other officials had “conspired” with key accused in the cheating case to benefit DSKDL.
But Nimbalkar said the loan process was in accordance with the rules. “The DSKDL company is an old client of Bank of Maharashtra, having taken numerous loans from the bank and repaid it on time in the past… Giving loan to DSKDL company was not an individual decision of the applicant (Marathe). It was a business decision taken jointly, for which a proper procedure was followed and details of it are given to the investigation officer,” Nimbalkar said.
“Meetings on loan proposal took place at the (bank’s) zonal office and then forwarded to the head office. Property was mortgaged as collateral (for the loan)… Auction of the (mortgaged) property is fixed on July 23. So steps for recovery of the loan are (already) being taken. So it cannot be said that bank has not followed the rules. There is no conspiracy between DSKDL and Bank of Maharashtra,” he added.
“We do maintain that there is prima-facie case against DSKDL wanting to grab money of investors. But the Bank and Marathe are in no way connected to that,” the lawyer said.
Nimbalkar also submitted that Pune Police was wrong in invoking provisions of the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act against Marathe. Citing RBI rules, he argued that arresting Marathe itself was “wrong and illegal”. He said Marathe had to be hospitalised twice, and needed proper treatment, and his wife was suffering from cancer. He then sought bail for Marathe assuring the court that he will abide by all conditions laid down therein. District government pleader Ujjwala Pawar told the court that the police did not need any further custody of Marathe. An order on the bail application is expected on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Sanjay Pandit, an investor of the DSKDL company and also a customer of the Bank of Maharashtra, filed an application seeking permission from the court “intervene” in the case, and submit his arguments. The court, however, asked him to assist the prosecution lawyer.
DSK’s son arrested
The police on Monday arrested Shirish Kulkarni, the son of key accused D S Kulkarni, in the case. On June 18, the Supreme Court had rejected Shirish’s application seeking extension of anticipatory bail and asked him to surrender before the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Pune Police within a week. On Monday, Shirish was produced in a special court. He was remanded in police custody till July 2. According to the police, Shirish had allegedly purchased chunk of land at Takve by utilising funds of D S Kulkarni Developers Private Limited that had several investors.
The funds were transferred in the personal accounts of Hemanti and thereafter, she had transferred Rs 3,420 lakh (Rs 34.2 crores) to Shirish’s account maintained with Bank of Maharashtra, Bajirao Road, Pune.