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Co-op dept report puts Ajit Pawar, Sopal in the dock

A report by Maharashtra Cooperative Commissioner has put Ajit Pawar, Dilip Sopal besides several others in the dock.

| Mumbai | Updated: May 31, 2014 3:38:30 am
Pawar was quoted by TV channels on Friday as saying the voice on the tape was not his. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar

At a time the ruling Congress-NCP combine is trying to revive its fortunes in the aftermath of the debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, a report by Maharashtra Cooperative Commissioner Dinesh Aaulkar has put Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, NCP minister Dilip Sopal besides several other leaders of the two parties in the dock.

The report was submitted on May 22 but made public Friday by Aaulkar and pertains to irregularities and financial losses worth Rs 1595.68 crore suffered by the state’s apex cooperative bank, the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB), during three financial years — 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2010-11.

Following a probe, Aaulkar’s office has ruled that “decisions, actions and inaction of the erstwhile board of directors (BOD) of the bank were responsible for the irregularities and the financial losses incurred”.

NCP’s Manikrao Patil chaired the erstwhile BOD, which was disbanded after the RBI pulled up the bank for high negative net worth in 2012. The bank, which is now controlled by administrators, has since managed to pull the MSCB out of the red.

Ajit Pawar was a director on the board. The other directors included former deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, Sopal, Amarsinh Pandit, Yasvantrao Gadakh (all NCP); Diliprao Deshmukh, Manikrao Kokate, Ramprasad Bordikar, Rajani Patil (all Congress); Anandrao Adsul (Shiv Sena); and Pandurang Phundkar (BJP) among others.

The Cooperative Commissioner has issued orders for initiating proceedings under Section 88 of the Cooperative Act, 1960 to “fix accountability” in the matter. He has appointed additional registrar Shivaji Pahinkar to “fix accountability”. The report has to be submitted within three months.

The probe, which was conducted following objections raised in an audit report, has indicted the erstwhile BOD on 13 charges, which included “violation of prescribed norms and guidelines while giving loans to sugar and cotton mills and auctioning defaulting mills”. It has also ruled that a firm led by Manikrao Patil’s wife was given a loan on concessional interest rates, despite being ineligible.

Interestingly, the sugar and cooperatives in question are also controlled by influential Congress, NCP and BJP politicians.

A loss of Rs 3319.45 crore was incurred when the BOD gave loans to nine sugar cooperatives, whose net worth was negative. This was in violation of NABARD guidelines, the report states. Further, in the case of two other sugar cooperatives and two cotton cooperatives, the BOD approved loans without mortgage resulting in a financial loss of Rs 60.08 crore.

The report has also held the erstwhile board accountable for “not taking action for recovering arrears worth Rs 119.99 crore from Sangli-based Cane Agro Energy (India) Ltd, even as the state had withdrawn guarantee to the firm”.

The inquiry has also found 24 cases where loans were given without mortgage or guarantee of any form. It has also pointed out that while recovery proceedings were initiated in 22 other cases, the amount recovered was short of the amount in arrears. This collectively resulted in a loss of Rs 420 crore.

It has said four firms, which were given loans for setting up small and micro industries, misused them, but the bank did not recover the loan amounts to the tune of Rs 3.20 crore. Even in 24 other cases where units were auctioned to recover arrears under the Securitisation Act, recovery of Rs 478.14 crore was pending.

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