TWO PERSONS named as co-accused in the money laundering case involving NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal want to turn approvers in the case. Amit Balraj and Sudhir Salaskar, former employees of the Mumbai Educational Trust founded by Bhujbal, have written to the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act court, saying they wish to become prosecution witnesses. In their separate pleas seeking ‘tender of pardon’ under section 306 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the two have said they were initially treated as a witness of prosecution, but while filing a complaint before the PMLA court, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) named them as accused.
While seeking remand of Bhujbal in March 2016, the ED had claimed that Balraj had told them he had seen huge bags containing cash being brought to the MET office and the notes being counted with a machine. Balraj had also allegedly told the ED that he had heard Bhujbal’s nephew, Sameer — also an accused in the case — instructing his associates about some persons bringing cash to MET.
Balraj had also claimed that he had asked Bhujbal about it but was told he had no knowledge about the money. In December last year, before the Bombay High Court, Bhujbal’s lawyers had argued that the ED was making no effort to nab the two despite their role as conspirators. The two had later surrendered before the court and sought bail, which was granted. Special Judge PR Bhavake has directed the other accused and the ED to file their replies to the plea by February 17.
The court is also likely to hear arguments on framing of charges against the accused on the same day. Bhujbal, who continues to remain in custody along with nephew Sameer, is facing allegations of money laundering and misappropriation of funds from kickbacks received for favouring contractors in construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi and the Kalina central library.