January 22, 2021 11:57:28 pm
REJECTING bail to Amit Chandole, an alleged aide of Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an alleged money laundering case, a local court said a possibility cannot be ruled out that insiders or officials of the MMRDA were “hand in glove” with big corporate groups or influential political bigwigs to siphon off funds from the public authority for their private gains.
The ED is probing allegations of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) being cheated of Rs 175 crore by Topsgrup Services and Solutions Ltd, which provided security guards to the public urban planning authority. It is alleged that while a contract was signed in 2014 to provide 350-500 guards to be deployed on MMRDA’s sites, only 70 per cent were assigned. The company, however, kept submitting bills for 100 per cent deployment.
“An investigation, prima-facie, revealed that those involved in the offence played a hoax and in a disguised way duped the public authority, i.e MMRDA, in which public monies were at stake. The possibility cannot be ruled out the insiders of MMRDA, i.e officials, were hand in glove with the big corporate groups or influential political bigwigs to siphon the funds from the public authority for their personal gain,” the court said. While Chandole’s bail plea was rejected last week, the order was made available Thursday.
The ED has alleged that Chandole was paid a fixed commission of Rs 50,000 per month and Rs 500 per guard to continue this alleged arrangement. The ED said that he was acting as a conduit of Sarnaik, collecting Rs 6 lakh per month and sharing profits.
Chandole, who was arrested on November 25 last year, had said his arrest was due to an “ulterior motive” and due to his “proximity with a political figure” in the state. He had also submitted to the court that the motive of his arrest was to extract names of political figures, like Pratap Sarnaik, and he was pressured to attribute a culpable role to him despite there being no basis for the allegations.
The court, however, said that since he is “connected with political persons”, the possibility of him tampering evidence cannot be ruled out.
Court issues process against Topsgrup owner
The ED submitted before the court that in 2017 Topsgrup owner Rahul Nanda, named as an accused in the case, had started a new business in the name of Cheep Care LLP where he and his daughters were partners in 90 per cent and 10 per cent capacities, respectively. The ED claimed that between 2017 and 2019, Rs 25 crore was transferred from Topsgrup to this company by way of loans but were not repaid and the company was shown to be in losses subsequently.
The ED also claimed that funds received from the central government under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Kushalya Yogana were diverted for personal and corporate uses. A sum of Rs 5 crore was also allegedly transferred to firms linked with real estate, films and fashion, without the company board’s approval.
The balance sheet of 2017-18, the ED said, showed that service tax, GST, provident fund, Employees’ State Insurance Corporation and tax deducted at source (TDS) to be paid by the company remained unpaid. The ED claimed that Nanda, as a promoter of the company, is the prime conspirator who “siphoned off money, laundered it through various ways including loans, gifts, salaries to family members, to overseas companies”.
“He (Nanda) also cheated MMRDA, a government agency for with the help of influential persons by rotating money and it was used for his personal gain and money laundering”, the ED told the court.
The court observed that there was prima facie material to proceed in the case and issued process against Nanda, his daughter Rasshi, the company, Chandole and M Sashidharan, the former MD of the company. The latter two are in jail.
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