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Looking for Sarnaik, ED visits Lonavala resort

The Enforcement Directorate has initiated an inquiry into the whereabouts of Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, who has not responded to three summons issued by the agency in connection with an alleged Rs 175-crore money laundering case, sources told The Indian Express.

Written by Khushboo Narayan , Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
May 19, 2021 3:52:55 am
Pratap Sarnaik

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has initiated an inquiry into the whereabouts of Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, who has not responded to three summons issued by the agency in connection with an alleged Rs 175-crore money laundering case, sources told The Indian Express.

Based on intelligence inputs, the agency officials on Tuesday visited a resort in Lonavala near Pune in search of Sarnaik but did not find him there either.

In the last two-and-a-half months, the ED has summoned Sarnaik thrice, asking him to present himself before the investigating officer probing the money laundering case related to the alleged cheating of Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) by Topsgrup Services and Solutions Limited.

Despite repeated attempts, Sarnaik and his son Purvesh were not available for comments.

“It looks like vendetta politics in Maharashtra after West Bengal,” said a senior Sena leader in reference to the recent arrest of two ministers and an MLA of Trinamool Congress by the CBI.

The ED is investigating Topsgrup, its promoter Rahul Nanda and Sarnaik under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The ED case is based on an FIR filed on October 28 following a complaint by a former Topsgrup employee Ramesh Iyer, who has alleged that the company cheated the MMRDA of Rs 175 crore.

While the ED has filed a prosecution complaint (chargesheet) against Topsgrup, its promoter Rahul Nanda and Amit Chandole — a close aide of Sarnaik — in January, it is now investigating Sarnaik’s role in the case, said sources. The MMRDA contract to Topsgrup, ED has alleged, was facilitated by Sarnaik, who got kickbacks of at least Rs 7 crore from the company. This contract pertained to supply of over 350 security and traffic marshals of foot over bridges in Mumbai to the MMRDA. But the ED has alleged that Topsgrup provided only 70 per cent of the workforce and billed the authority for the full amount. The ED probe has found that in a particular month, while Topsgrup paid only Rs 13 lakh to 140 guards posted at MMRDA, it raised invoices of Rs 43 lakh for 270 guards.

The agency has also filed a chargesheet against Topsgrup, Nanda and Chandole. It has questioned Sarnaik, his sons Vihang and Purvesh and brother-in-law Yogesh Chandegala in connection to the case last year.

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