The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Wednesday booked senior Congress leader and former Gujarat chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela in a money laundering case. Vaghela, along with four others, was charged with causing a loss of Rs 709 crore to the exchequer by selling prime National Textile Corporation (NTC) land in Mumbai at throwaway prices when he was Union textile minister.
This came a day after Vaghela, who is now the Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly, called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah “encounter specialists”. Reacting to Anandiben Patel’s resignation as chief minister, Vaghela told TV9 Gujarati channel that “Gujarat’s former CM” and “former home minister” were encounter specialists and had done the “political encounter” of Anandiben.
The ED registered the offence under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, taking cognizance of a case filed by CBI against Vaghela and others last year. Officials said the ED worked on the case after gathering inputs from CBI and other agencies. It also identified the “proceeds of crime” created by the accused. They said Vaghela and others named in the FIR will soon be summoned for questioning.
The NTC land in Mumbai’s Worli area was sold to Kolkata-based firm M/s Hall and Anderson Ltd for Rs 29.35 crore. The CBI had alleged that the accused entered a criminal conspiracy and transferred the land in a wrongful manner, causing an alleged loss of about Rs 709.27 crore to the state exchequer.
It was alleged that during UPA’s rule, Vaghela, who moved from the BJP to the Congress, had overruled officials’ suggestions that NTC must make a detailed evaluation of the land before approving the deal. The CBI had registered its FIR under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and cheating and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act concerning criminal misconduct.
Besides Vaghela, those named in the FIR included then CMD of NTC K Ramachandran Pillai, then Director (Technical) R K Sharma, senior manager (Legal) M K Khare, and a Kolkata-based private firm and its Director. The property in question is part of over 80,785 sq m land of “sick” Madhusudan Mills which was taken over by NTC under Textile Undertakings (Taking Over of Management) Act, 1983 and Textiles Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1995.
Vaghela allegedly abused his position to approve sharing of the land in the 65:35 ratio in favour of the Kolkata-based firm, the agency had claimed. Reacting to the development, Vaghela said: “This is very political. I am being hounded because I made a strong statement yesterday that there has been a political encounter of Anandiben.”
On the case, he said, “Whatever we did was as per directives of the Supreme Court. There was no transaction or sale whatsoever, so where is the question of loss? All Mumbai mill lands were given away on this sharing basis as per SC guidelines. The remaining land is in custody of NTC.”