THE MAHARASHTRA government has ordered an inquiry against IPS officer and Principal Secretary (Home) Amitabh Gupta for helping DHFL promoters Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan along with 21 others, including relatives, evade the lockdown enforced by the state to contain the spread of COVID-19. He was sent on forced leave on Thursday.
State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told reporters a decision on Gupta would be taken after the government receives the inquiry report. “We have sent Gupta on forced leave and have asked Additional Chief Secretary Manoj Saunik to conduct an inquiry. Apart from that, we have registered an FIR against the Wadhawans under sections 188, 279, 270, 34 of the Indian Penal Code, Disaster Management Act section 51 (b) and COVID-19 section 11,” he said.
The Opposition hit out at the government on the permission granted to the Wadhawans to travel, with BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis saying, “Asking a Principal Secretary to proceed on long leave is not enough… no officer takes such decisions alone. At whose behest did the police officer give permission? The real face behind this should be exposed and made public.”
The Wadhawan brothers are being probed by the Enforcement Directorate for alleged money laundering and by the Central Bureau of Investigation for alleged fraud in a Yes Bank loan case. On Friday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wrote to Satara district authorities in Maharashtra, asking to not release them from the COVID-19 quarantine facility at Panchgani without the agency’s nod.
Gupta, a 1992 batch IPS officer, who was appointed Principal Secretary (Home) in August 2018, had described the Wadhawans as “family friends” and given them written permission to move to their farmhouse Dewan Villa in Mahabaleshwar from their guest house in Khandala.
“On April 9, information was received by CBI that both the accused (Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan) were located in Satara district and lodged at a Government Institutional Quarantine Centre at Panchgani. Thereafter, an email has been immediately sent to District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Satara for not releasing them without an NOC from CBI or order of the Court and for taking other necessary steps to prevent the accused persons from absconding,” the agency said in a statement.
Kapil Wadhawan had skipped summons by the Enforcement Directorate for interrogation in the case early last month saying that due pre-existing health complications, he was not supposed to travel during the corona outbreak. He had, in fact, even thrown the government’s corona advisory at the ED on avoidance of travel during the outbreak. A nationwide lockdown had not been announced till then.
The agency had registered an FIR against the brothers and nine others, including Yes Bank promoter Rana Kapoor and his family members, on March 7. According to the CBI, the brothers have been absconding since then. A Mumbai court had issued non-bailable warrants against the Wadhawan brothers on March 17. “Even after the issuance of NBW, they have not appeared before CBI or the Court,” the CBI statement on Friday said.
Gupta, an IPS officer of the 1992 batch, was DCP Zone IX and later Additional Commissioner of Police (West region). A senior official said it was during this posting as Additional CP (West region) – whose jurisdiction spans from Andheri to Bandra – that Gupta came in contact with the Wadhawans who had their head office in Bandra (East).
The trouble for the Wadhawans began in October 2019, when an ED probe into the alleged money laundering activities of late gangster Iqbal Memon alia Iqbal Mirchi, a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, found a Rs 225 crore land deal between Mirchi and Sunblink Real Estate Pvt Ltd, a company associated with DHFL.
According to the agency, the land deal between Sunblink and Iqbal Mirchi was negotiated on behalf of Dheeraj Wadhawan. The same month, a fornesic audit conducted by KPMG on behalf of the lenders of DHFL found diversion of over Rs 19,000 crore of bank loans to DHFL’s related entities.
The ED first questioned the Wadhawan brothers in November 2019. The agency also arrested four persons in connection with the Mirchi case. Interestingly, neither Dheeraj nor Kapil were arrested by the agency, even as ED in its chargesheet named Dheeraj Wadhawan as one of the main accused in the case. The ED charge-sheet filed on December 9, said Dheeraj Wadhawan along with a few of his associates met gangster Iqbal Mirchi, multiple times in London, between March and August 2010 to negotiate a land deal between Mirchi and Sunblink.
DHFL, that owes Rs 83,873 crore owes to banks, mutual funds and investors, also became the first non-banking finance company (NBFC) to be referred to the bankruptcy court for resolution by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in November 2019. The RBI superseded the board of DHFL and appointed a three-member advisory body to advise the RBI appointed administrator of the company.
In January 2020, a month after filing the chargesheet in the Mirchi case, the ED finally arrested Kapil Wadhawan. However, a local court granted bail to Wadhawan on February 21. The court in its order said the assets of DHFL did not appear to be proceeds of crime as claimed by ED. Dheeraj too has obtained an anticipatory bail from a Mumbai court.
Despite the bail, the Wadhawans once again landed in trouble after the ED registered a money laundering case against Rana Kapoor for allegedly receiving kickbacks of over Rs 600 crore for loans given by the bank to DHFL.
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