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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Satara sugar mill sold as per HC directive, action by ED politically motivated: Ajit Pawar

The ED had provisionally attached land, machinery and buildings worth Rs 65.75 crore owned by the sugar mill in Satara, in a case of alleged fraud related to Maharashtra State Cooperative (MSC) Bank in which the agency had earlier named NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar.

Written by Atikh Rashid | Pune |
Updated: July 3, 2021 9:12:04 am
Pawar, who chaired the weekly Covid-19 review meeting at Pune’s Council Hall on Friday, also said the present restrictions in the city will continue. (File photo)

Responding to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) action against Jarandeshwar Co-operative Sugar Mill, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Friday said that the action was politically motivated and the deals pertaining to this and 13 other sugar mills, which were auctioned in 2010, were conducted as per the directives of the Bombay High Court. He said the ED was free to investigate the matter “as have several other investigation agencies over the last few years, but have found nothing illegal”.

The ED had provisionally attached land, machinery and buildings worth Rs 65.75 crore owned by the sugar mill in Satara, in a case of alleged fraud related to Maharashtra State Cooperative (MSC) Bank in which the agency had earlier named NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar.

The ED, in a statement, had said that the sugar factory was bought by Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills Pvt Limited by setting up a dummy company, Guru Commodity Services Pvt Limited. The factory was then leased to Jarendeshwar Sugar Mills Pvt Limited “immediately”, which has Sparkling Soil Pvt Ltd as a major investor, a company linked to Ajit Pawar and wife Sunetra.

Pawar, however, said, “People are not fools not to realise what’s behind this game. The sale of sugar factories at that time has been investigated by ACB, CID and former judges, and nothing illegal has been found. The mill was sold as per the Bombay High Court’s directives,” Pawar said while addressing a press conference in Pune on Friday.

He said the sale of 14 sugar factories to which MSC Bank had lent money happened after a Mumbai-based housing society, Sundarbaug Sahkari Society, filed a PIL in 2007, claiming that the financial health of MSC Bank was suffering as it had lent huge sums to co-operative sugar factories which weren’t performing well. Jarendeshwar sugar mill was one of the 14 mills named in the PIL.

The Bombay High Court then ordered that the sugar factories concerned should be given a deadline of one year and if they fail to make timely repayments, the factories should be sold off.

Later, as per the order of the Bombay High Court, the sugar factories were auctioned in 2010 after issuing tenders.

“The State Cooperative Bank had followed all the norms in the Securitisation Act, and they were sold. There were 12 to 15 companies which had submitted the bids but Guru Commodity Services Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, won the auction with the highest bid of Rs 65.75 crore,” said Pawar.

“Then BVG Group’s Hanumant Gaikwad and another director named Mane, who is a local of Satara, contacted Guru Commodity and requested them to lease the factory to them for operations. The factory was leased to them for 30-35 years. However, in the first year of operation itself, they suffered a loss of Rs 3-4 crore, this is on record. But due to the loss, they went on the backfoot… that company (Jarendeshwar Sugar Mills Pvt Ltd) was taken over by a relative of mine, Rajendra Ghadge. Even after this takeover, the factory still suffered losses for two to three years. Then they decided to diversify and started a distillery with a capacity of 1 lakh litres, increased the crushing capacity 10,000 MT per day and also set up a 32 MW co-generation plant in 2016-17,” said Pawar.

“For this, they borrowed about Rs 300 to 400 crore from several banks including Pune, Ratnagiri, Satara and Sindhudurg district co-operative banks, after completing all the formalities. Repayment of the loans is being done properly as Jarandeshwar is one of the best performing sugar mills in the area,” said Pawar.

“However, I am unable to understand the latest action by ED in connection of Guru Commodity and how it’s linked to me,” said the NCP leader.

“ED has all the right to inquire into the matter. In the past, several complaints were made and during the tenure of the previous government, CID investigated the matter… nothing came of these inquiries. ACB also inquired and nothing came of it. Several PILs are pending in this regard and the EOW is investigating it. Since there was no truth in the accusation, all the inquiries have gone positively for me,” said Pawar.

Talking about the investment of Rs 20 crore by a company linked to him and wife Sunetra, Pawar said, “They should check if the amount of Rs 20 crore that was invested by us in the company was paid by cheque, and what was the source of that income. It’s all clean money. All of this has been conveyed to ED by the directors of Jarandeshwar Sugar Mill,” said Pawar.

Pawar said the ED attaching the mail will bring hardships to the employees of the sugar mill and will also pose a conundrum for the sugarcane growers in the area as the factory provides the best rate for cane in the area. The factory management will move court against the action by ED, said Pawar.

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