A special court on Thursday rejected an intervention application filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the clean chit given by the Mumbai Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and over 70 others in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) alleged fraud case.
The EOW had filed a nearly 70,000-page C-summary closure report last month stating that it had found no irregularities in the case. The ED had opposed the report stating that a probe was required to establish conflict of interest of authorities involved in the case. It had maintained that the court should not accept the report and the investigation should continue.
The EOW had said that ED had no locus standi to interfere in the proceedings of another investigating agency. Alleging that ED was taking “undue interest” in the case, it had further said that the investigating officer had carried out a detailed probe and also considered two letters sent by the ED in May and August regarding the probe.
The ED is probing a separate complaint in the same case pertaining to allegations of money laundering. The complaint arises out of the EOW FIR. The ED had submitted that if the closure report filed by the EOW is accepted by the court, it would cause “serious prejudice” and “interference” in its case.
The EOW had started a probe into the case after it received directions from the Bombay High Court based on a petition filed by an individual named Surinder Arora through his lawyer Subash Talekar. It was claimed that there were irregularities in the loan transactions of sugar cooperative banks from 2002 till 2017 and a probe should be initiated against their directors and members, who included politicians of Maharashtra. The charges invoked in the FIR were that of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy under the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The complaint had claimed that loans were given without following specific procedure, resulting in losses affecting the rural economy. The PIL had also claimed that till 2006, there were 202 sugar cooperatives in the state, of which, while 116 were running in losses, 74 had negative worth and 31 had been shut.
The EOW in its closure report had said that accurate security deposits were taken during the loan transactions and specific allegations – procedures not being followed while granting loans, legal recourse not taken for non-repayment and loans being given at the end of financial year – are of a civil nature and a criminal offence cannot be made out of them.
The ED in its intervention plea had said that probe was required in at least two transactions of the MSCB, including one involving relatives of Ajit Pawar, who was then the director of the bank.
The EOW, in its reply, also said that ED’s interference was “unwarranted”. It referred to a similar order where the court had refused ED’s intervention in the Jet Airways probe by the Mumbai Police.
Meanwhile, protest petitions filed opposing the EOW’s closure report by the original complainant, Surinder Arora, will be heard separately by the court next month. It had directed him to file a detailed petition on the report.
Others claiming to be part of the cooperative sugar factories have also filed protest petitions stating that the nexus and involvement of politicians should be probed. After hearing the protest petition, the court will decide whether to accept or reject the closure report.
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