A probe by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has alleged that the now suspended Assistant Police Inspector (API), Sachin Waze collected Rs 4.7 crore from bar owners between December 2020 and February 2021 on the instructions of Anil Deshmukh, former Maharashtra Home Minister. According to ED, Waze gave the money to Deshmukh’s private assistant, Kundan Shinde and subsequently a part of this money was routed to a charitable trust in Nagpur, through four shell companies in Delhi.
A copy of the ED remand application, reviewed by The Indian Express, said that Waze handed over Rs 4.70 crore collected from bars for “smooth functioning” as “good luck” money to Shinde. Out of this about Rs 4.18 crore was then deposited in cash with four Delhi-based companies — Reliable Finance Corporation Pvt. Ltd, VA Realcon Pvt. Ltd., Utsav Securities Pvt. Ltd. and Sital Leasing and finance Pvt. ltd. These firms subsequently donated the entire money to Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha Trust, a charitable trust headed by Anil Deshmukh and his family.
The ED remand application was submitted in the special court that was hearing the agency’s plea to grant custody of Shinde and Deshmukh’s private secretary Sanjeev Palande. Both Shinde and Palande were arrested by the ED on Saturday, after the agency conducted searches at the residence of Deshmukh in Nagpur on Friday.
The ED has found that the four Delhi companies are shell firms run by brothers Surendra Jain and Virendra Jain. The Jain brothers in their statement to ED said they were asked to give “transfer/adjustment entries in garb of donation to Shri Sai Shikshan Sanshtha, Nagpur.”
“Accordingly money was received in form of cash on instruction of Deshmukh family and same was channelized through web of various companies to trust in grab of donations. A total of approx. Rs 4 crores were thus diverted to the said trust in the garb of loans/donations,” said the remand application of ED submitted in a court. The ED alleged that Deshmukh’s son Hrishikesh Deshmukh oversaw this transaction.
The probe agency said both Shinde and Palande were directly involved in collecting and laundering money on behalf of Deshmukh and it needs to interrogate them in custody to finalise the investigation. ED further said that Shinde’s role was instrumental in collecting cash from Waze on behalf of Deshmukh, while Palande was passing on instructions of Deshmukh with regards to transfers, postings, besides collection of funds from bars.
However, advocate Shekhar Jagtap appearing for Palande said that ED’s case was “politically motivated” and “biased” as Waze was named as accused, while agency relied on his statements to illegally raid and arrest people and denied claims of gratification sought by Palande or Deshmukh.
Advocate Mehul Thakkar who appeared for Shinde said that there was no evidence to show the client being in ‘direct contact’ with Waze and there was no ‘money-trail’ as claimed by ED.
The court has granted custody of Shinde and Palande to ED till July 1.
The ED also said while Deshmukh and his family directly control 11 companies, they also indirectly control 13 firms through “dummy directors”. The agency said an analysis of the bank statements of these 13 companies show huge transfers to firms directly owned by the Deshmukh family. This, the ED alleged, was done to inflate their balance sheets and layering of money.
“From the analysis of accounts of these companies, it is clear that there is no rationale for transfers and can thus be said that these series of transactions were meant for inflating balance sheets and layering of money from one company to other,” said the ED.
Meanwhile, Deshmukh asked ED for more time, after the agency summoned him to appear before it on Saturday at 11 am.
A team of lawyers representing Deshmukh visited the ED office and submitted a letter on behalf of him requesting for more time for personal appearance.
“We have given the letter to ED and asked them to furnish documents based on which we are to be questioned as we don’t have any knowledge about the line of investigation. So we are unable to appear for questioning. Now ED has to take a call on it,” said Deshmukh’s lawyer, Jaywant Patil.
The ED 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 being removed as the Mumbai Police chief, Singh had alleged that Deshmukh had asked police officers, including 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. The CBI FIR said Deshmukh had used his official position to obtain certain undue advantage and had also influenced transfers and postings in the Mumbai Police, as alleged by Singh.
Waze is being probed by the NIA for his alleged role in the case related to the bomb scare outside Mukesh Ambani’s residence and the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran.
After being suspended for 15 years for a custodial death case, Waze had rejoined the police force in 2020.
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