Former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has written to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) Tuesday expressing his inability to appear in person before the probe agency in connection with a money laundering case, citing the Covid-19 pandemic. The NCP leader has instead asked the ED to record his statement through an “audio/visual” mode of their choice.
In the letter, Deshmukh said, “I am a septuagenarian, about 72 years of age, suffering from various comorbidities including hypertension and cardiac problems etc. I have already exposed my person to some extent on June 25 in my long interaction with you spanning over several hours during the course of the search and recording my statement. Thus, it may not be prudent or desirable to appear in person today and I am sending my authorised representative.”
Deshmukh said he will furnish all information and documents sought by the ED after the agency gives him a copy of the enforcement case information report (ECIR) in the case. He also said the ED summons “do not clarify” the purpose of his personal appearance and denied any wrongdoing.
Following searches at his Nagpur residence, the ED had summoned Deshmukh last week. At that time, Deshmukh had sought more time to appear before the agency. Subsequently, the ED issued fresh summons asking him to appear before it at 11 am on Tuesday.
The ED, which arrested Deshmukh’s private secretary Sanjeev Palande and private assistant Kundan Shinde, in its remand application said more than Rs 4 crore, collected from bar owners between December 2020 and February 2021, was routed to Deshmukh’s charitable trust in Nagpur through four shell companies in Delhi.
The agency probe into Deshmukh’s financial transactions is in line with the CBI probe into former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations of corruption against the NCP leader. Deshmukh has denied the allegations.
In his March 20 letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, after he was removed as the Mumbai Police chief, Singh had alleged that Deshmukh had asked police officers, including Sachin Waze, to collect Rs 100 crore, including Rs 40-50 crore each month from 1,750 bars and restaurants in Mumbai. The ED registered a case against Deshmukh for allegedly obtaining illegal gratification, based on an FIR filed by the CBI in April.
Waze, who has been dismissed from service, is being probed by the NIA for his alleged role in the case related to the bomb scare outside Mukesh Ambani’s Mumbai residence and the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran.
Meanwhile, the CBI said Tuesday it will be recording statements of four persons, including bar owners who had paid money to Waze allegedly on the Deshmukh’s instructions, before a magistrate. The statements of the four will be recorded under section 164 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which has higher evidentiary value in a trial.
An application was moved by the CBI before the special court Tuesday through special public prosecutor Sandeep Singh stating that the statements of the four persons are important and relevant to throw light on the case, they are investigating against Deshmukh under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“It appears that in order to reach a proper conclusion of investigation, the witness mentioned is important whose statement appears to be crucial in this case,” Special Judge A S Sayyad said and directed the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court to record the statements and submit it in a sealed envelope on or before July 5.
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