The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday arrested Girish Chaudhri, son-in-law of NCP leader Eknath Khadse, in connection with a case pertaining to a 2016 land deal in Pune.
Later in the day, a special court in Mumbai granted Chaudhri’s custody to the ED till July 12. Chaudhri was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after he was questioned by the agency for over 10 hours on Tuesday.
The ED has also summoned Khadse and asked him to appear before it in person on July 8.
Last October, the ED had filed an Enforcement Case Information Report against Khadse, his wife Mandakini Khadse, Chaudhri and Abbas Ukani in the alleged grab of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation land at Bhosari village in Pune. Ukani is the original owner of the land.
The ED has alleged Chaudhri and Khadse bought the land for Rs 3.75 crore when its actual value was over Rs 31 crore. The land was purchased in Chaudhri’s name and the money for the deal was allegedly routed through five shell companies, said an ED official.
The ED in its remand application before the court said that Chaudhari received a portion of the money used for buying the plot from Benchmark Buildicon Private Limited, a company that had no operating income and did not exist at its registered address. The probe found that Benchmark Buildicon had in turn received the money from five companies — Proficient Merchandise, Abjayoni Trading, Adamina Traders, Chemexgoods Private Limited and Pearl Dealers Private Limited. ED summons to these five companies have been returned as undelivered.
“The land was registered at a much lower rate – only at Rs 3.75 crore – against the prevailing value of Rs 31 crore. During investigation, it was found that accused (Chaudhri) claimed the source of fund to purchase the said property as loan from some companies, However, it is revealed that these funds were layered and routed through shell companies, which are either dysfunctional or strike off later on,” said the ED in a statement.
The agency has alleged that Khadse – who was the state revenue minister in 2016 – by using his official position and government machinery, manipulated the actual market price of the land. The deal, according to ED, has caused a loss of Rs 61.25 crore to the public exchequer.
The ED is probing the source of the funds used to buy the land and also the undervaluation of the plot, said officials.
Last December, the ED had summoned Khadse in connection with the case. In January, he was questioned for about six hours by the agency in Mumbai.
Khadse had quit the BJP and joined the NCP in October 2020. He had resigned from the Devendra Fadnavis-led Cabinet in 2016 after facing allegations that he misused his official powers to facilitate the purchase of the government land.
In 2017, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of the Maharashtra Police had registered an FIR against Khadse, Mandakini, Chaudhri and Ukani. Earlier, while denying any wrongdoing, Khadse had said that the ACB as well as the income tax department had given him a clean chit in the case.