THE Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Maharashtra unit on Wednesday levelled allegations of money laundering against Ashish Shelar, legislator and president of the Mumbai unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The AAP demanded that the BJP remove Shelar from party posts until an inquiry is conducted in the matter.
According to AAP, Sarveshwar Logistics Private Limited, formed in 2010 by Shelar along with two other directors, conducts no visible business and does not have employees or any project work.
Its annual revenues for the last five years have been Rs 0, Rs 12,867, Rs 10,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 14,500 respectively, AAP claimed.
“In the first year of the company, 2010-2011, it immediately received share application money of Rs 3.6 crore, and loans and advances of Rs 26 lakh. It also purchased property worth Rs 3 crore. How come a start-up, with no business operation and no revenue, receive such a high amount of share application money? Surprisingly, in the very next year, it received an unsecured loan of Rs 6 crore, without any collateral or business model to show,” alleged Preeti Sharma Menon, national spokesperson of AAP.
The money secured from various sources has been used to purchase properties, the AAP has alleged. Now, the company, in four years, owns properties worth Rs 18.46 crore, according to Sharma.
She further alleged that Shelar, who is also a director on the board of Riddhi Dealmark Private Limited incorporated in 2010, concealed the information about it in his 2014 assembly election affidavit.
“Riddhi, registered in Kolkata, has conducted no business and its revenues have been in the range of Rs 7,000 annually. The original Kolkata-based directors of Riddhi, Premnath Mali and Jitendra Chaudhary, sold their shares to Shelar and his PA Prakash Patil within one month of starting. In the first year, Riddhi received Rs 20 lakh as share application money,” alleged Sharma. She also alleged that Riddhi’s balance sheets show that in the next year, Rs 20 lakh was invested in Shelar’s other company (Sarveshwar) but there is no record of this money in Sarveshwar’s balance sheets.
“These are clear cases of money laundering. Apart from paying the audit fees, there is no expenditure of the companies. All these companies are on papers and made to convert black money into white,” alleged Sharma, adding, the same modus operandi was used by former deputy chief minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, in whose case AAP registered a complaint with the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Shelar, however, dismissed the allegations made by the AAP as baseless. Shelar said, “The total investments made in three firms of which two were defunct was not exceeding Rs 45 lakh.” He said he had already quit as director of the existing Sarveshwar Logistics which was started in partnership with a friend in which he owned 33 per cent shares.
He said two other companies, Riddhi Dealmark and Opera Realtors, have become defunct without making any financial transaction. Both these companies were launched in 2010 and became non-operational by 2015-16.
Mentioning that part of funds for Sarveshwar Logistics was through Rs 6-crore loans in 2011-12 from banks at an interest rate of 14.5 per cent, he said, “How can anybody question any motive?” He said there was no favour nor any financial mismanagement as alleged by the AAP.
Shelar attributed the AAP’s allegations to a political motive and threatened to file a defamation case against the party and its members.
While the AAP sought to know why Opera Realtors and Riddhi Dealmark were launched and abruptly shut down, Shelar argued, “The two firms were set up with a purpose to do business in property lease. However, it was discontinued.”
Following AAP’s allegations, Shelar also wrote a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressing his willingness to face any probe in the matter through the Enforcement Directorate.