Two hand-written diaries maintained by an aide of former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and recovered from his Srinagar residence during searches conducted on December 23, 2020, are the focus of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, sources told The Sunday Express.
The former Chief Minister and president of the Peoples Democratic Party was questioned by the agency two days ago. Officials said she was shown copies of pages from a diary which lists alleged monthly payments made out of the CM’s discretionary funds to several individuals including her relatives; as payment for party activities and to meet “personal” expenses.
The fund, according to officials familiar with the on-going probe into the alleged money laundering case, was to the tune of Rs 1 crore a month of which roughly a third was used as payments to state government agencies.
After a scrutiny of 23 bank accounts and questioning and searching several key persons, the agency has made out a case of alleged ‘’diversion” of between Rs 7-8 crore from the Government fund for “personal and political purposes.”
A scrutiny of the entries, officials said, shows monthly outflows to the former Chief Minister herself as well as payment to destitute homes.
For May/June and November 2017, there are payments listed towards organizing a wazwan in Delhi; the purchase of a humidifier; payments towards tailors’ bills, cable TV costs, Golf Club bills and milk supplies. Payments, for June 2016 total Rs 59.64 lakh and for October 2016, Rs 53.35 lakh.
The ED has categorized alleged payments as per their end use: organizing PDP rallies; providing vehicles for PDP workers and purchase of air tickets for her family.
Asked about these by The Indian Express, Mehbooba Mufti said: “I have been shown this diary but it is not the gospel truth. I know the people mentioned but I cannot certify what they write in their notes. The CM’s fund is a discretionary fund and it the Chief Minister’s prerogative how to expend that amount.”
She said that every CM has used the discretionary fund for various purposes and “though it is not audited, I have kept accounts and maybe I should not have.”
The agency is now set to question members of Mehbooba Mufti’s family in connection with allegedly significant deposits into their bank accounts when she was Chief Minister.
Details of the investigation show cash deposits to the tune of Rs 60 lakh for the period 2016-2018 into the accounts of Mehbooba Mufti’s mother, Gulshan Nazir, as well as deposits into the accounts of her daughter, sister and brother. All these family members are expected to be questioned by the ED.
Along with this, there are allegations of cash from “undisclosed sources” being deposited into the accounts of members of Mehbooba Mufti’s security detail and the money being, subsequently, moved into the account of her mother.
Similar circuitous transactions are being probed between a Srinagar hotelier who would allegedly get cash deposited into his accounts which was then transferred into accounts of the then CM’s family members, said officials.
According to officials, almost all those questioned in the case so far have admitted to the cash deposits. This includes the author of the diaries who maintained the monthly accounts for the CM’s discretionary fund and is said to have confirmed the expenses, said officials.
Asked about alleged transfers from the fund to her mother’s account, Mehbooba Mufti denied making any such transfers. “She (her mother) is the wife of a former Home Minister and a former Chief Minister, it is not surprising that she should have a certain amount in her account.”
She said that the CM’s fund in her tenure was used for helping widows and youth engagement among other concerns. “If I had misused any funds, I would have more assets — land, property and jewellery. I don’t have any of that to show for all this alleged misuse,” she said.
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