Rocking Maharashtra ahead of the assembly elections in the state next month, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a case of alleged money laundering against NCP leader and former Union Minister Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and several others including Anandrao Adsul (Shiv Sena), Jayant Patil (PWP), Diliprao Deshmukh and Madan Patil (Congress), Ishwarlal Jain and Shivajirao Nalawade (NCP).
The Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) was registered Monday, ED sources said Tuesday, adding that the case is based on an FIR filed by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police in connection with alleged irregularities in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank.
The NCP described the ED action as “political vendetta” and Sharad Pawar said it was prompted by the strong support for his party across the state: “I was never a director of any cooperative bank. However, if they have filed a case against me, I welcome it. I was expecting such an action after the response that I received during my recent tour of Maharashtra.”
NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad said: “The attempt to finish Sharad Pawar using agencies like ED will not work. Pawar has not had an association with a bank for the past 50 years. What kind of politics is BJP adopting? They are threatened by Pawar’s campaign which is leading them to behave in this way.”
Advocate Prashant Patil, Ajit Pawar’s lawyer in Pune, said: “There was an order of the Bombay High Court directing the Economic Offences Wing to register an FIR in the matter. We had approached the Supreme Court against the order, wherein the apex court has held that investigations should be carried out fairly without getting influenced by the High Court and in accordance with law.”
“Now, we have got to know through the electronic media that ED too has registered an offence. In whichever case, we are ready to cooperate with the investigating agencies as law-abiding citizens. The Supreme Court order in the said matter of MSC Bank is binding upon all the investigating agencies. The MSC Bank has taken an official stand before Bombay High Court that there is no scam and there is no loss caused to the bank. We have faith upon the fairness of the investigating agencies,” he said.
ED sources, speaking on the ECIR, said: “A criminal PIL was filed on 28.01.2019 before Bombay High Court in the case of Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam. Hon’ble High Court, after detailed hearing and going through the complaint, on 22.08.2019 directed the EOW, Mumbai Police to register an FIR. The FIR was thereafter filed and consequently an ECIR was recorded on 23/09/2019 against the then Chairman, MDs, Directors of Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSC), along with Mr Sharad Pawar, Mr Ajit Pawar, Mr Diliprao Deshmukh, Mr lshwarlal Jain, Mr Jayant Patil…”
“It is alleged that the then top executives i.e. Chairman, MDs, Directors, CEOs, managerial staff of Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSC) and office-bearers and directors of Sakhar Karkhanas (cooperative sugar factories or CSFs), Soot Girnis and other processing units were given loans in a fraudulent manner by MSC Bank and, in the process, several illegalities were committed. The scam is pegged at Rs 25,000 crore,” sources said.
The loans, sources said, were provided to CSFs by officials of the MSC Bank who were linked to owners of the CSFs. “There were several irregularities in the sanctioning of the loans committed, only with the purpose of extending benefits to the directors of the lending bank, for personal gains, thereby defrauding and cheating the bank and its shareholders,” sources said.
Loans were sanctioned to CSFs despite weak financials and negative net worth, ED sources said, adding that no collateral was taken in many cases and loans were extended on the basis of fraudulent and dishonest representation to the bank.
“Thereafter, due to alleged mismanagement and underutilisation of capacity and increasing overhead expenditure, these CSFs became sick and were sold by a decision taken by the board of directors at a price much below the reserve price to avail wrongful gain to the purchaser. The purchasers had personal or political links to the board of directors and the consent of borrowing units were not taken before undertaking such sale,” sources said on the ECIR.