WITH THE Enforcement Directorate (ED) making no headway in getting the Chhagan and Sameer Bhujbal to reveal details in the multi-crore Maharashtra Sadan money laundering scam, investigators are likely to make one of the accused an approver in the case, sources said.
The accused, who has been named in the case but not arrested so far, has provided clinching evidence on how cash was delivered at Mumbai Education Trust’s (MET) office in Bandra. Chhagan Bhujbal is a chairman of MET.
The cash, over Rs 200 crore, was channelised in the dummy companies floated by the Bhujbals, and used to buy real estate properties, the agency’s probe has revealed.
Under the law, an approver is an accomplice to a crime who confesses his guilt and gives evidence against his confederates.
“Both the Bhujbals have denied their roles in the case and therefore, to support our case, we are planning to make one of the accused whose statement so far has been recorded in the capacity of a witness an approver,” an official from the agency said.
“Since the accused was privy to the conspiracy and also acted as a director in one of the bogus companies, his testimony will help us nail the Bhujbals and make our case watertight,” the official added.
The ED while seeking Bhujbal’s custody had claimed that the MET’s Bandra office was the den where the proceeds of the crime were brought and later laundered through front companies. Bhujbal played a role of a ‘prime mover’ in the case, the agency had asserted.
The agency has enlisted at least 12 employees of the trust who were shown as directors in various fictitious firms. The statements of these employees have been recorded by the ED.
These include Amit Biraj, Dilip Naik, Sanjay Joshi, Tanvir Sheikh, Geeta Joshi, Nimesh Bendre and Rajesh Dharap, who have admitted to their roles.
“They have deposed that cash was brought to the MET office and if Chhagan Bhujbal was present in the office, Samir used to brief him about the same,” the official said. “He was aware of all the real estate purchases by the Bhujbal-controlled entities.”
With Bhujbal in judicial custody until March 31, a battery of lawyers have been pressed into service to decide if he should apply for bail.
“Unlike in a case registered under the IPC, where the onus to prove guilt is on the investigating agency, in PMLA, cases the onus is on the accused to prove innocence. It is therefore prudent to apply for bail only after the chargesheet is filed. However we have to consider that Bhujbal is 69-year-old and suffers from ailments. Keeping him in jail would affect his health,” a source close to the leader told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, Bhujbal’s counsel will soon move an application against a lawyer for impersonating and filing a bail plea on behalf of his client. “Neither Bhujbal nor any of his lawyers have moved a bail application. We are in process of getting copies of proceedings, after which we will file a complaint and move pleas to recall the proceedings,” Sajal Yadav, Bhujbal’s defence counsel said. “It appears to be a mischief at behest of opponents of the Bhujbal family, obviously aiming to frustrate his bail application when he files it,” Yadav said.