MSCB Scam: ED Attaches Assets of Firm, Says Linked to Ajit Pawar
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar was named in the Rs 25,000-crore scam.
The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday, 1 July, said that it has attached properties amounting to nearly Rs 65.75 crore in connection with the alleged Maharashtra State Co-operative (MSC) Bank fraud.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar has been named in the Rs 25,000-crore scam.
As per an official of the central agency, various assets, including land, building, and plant and machinery of the Jarandeshwar Sahkari Sugar Karkhana (sugar mill) in Satara, have been seized under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The majority shareholder in the mill - Sparkling Soil Pvt Ltd - is linked to Pawar, according to the ED.
WHAT IS THE MSC BANK SCAM?
The Jarandeshwar Sugar Mill started in 2010 at Koregaon in Satara district of Maharashtra. But after incurring losses, the mill was auctioned off by the Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank and sold to Guru Commodity Services Private Limited.
The ED alleges that the auction took place at a rate much below the market price and due process was not followed. At that time, Ajit Pawar was the chairman of the State Co-operative Bank. However, the matter does not stop here.
According to the ED, Guru Commodities immediately leased the sugar mill to Jarandeshwar Sugar Mill Pvt Ltd.
A company by the name of Sparkling Soil Pvt Ltd is the majority shareholder of the sugar mill and upon a probe, the central agency found that it is linked to Pawar and his wife, Sunetra Ajit Pawar.
Moreover, the ED suspects that Guru Commodity, which had bought Jarandeshwar Sugar Mill, is a dummy company. It is also under investigation that Jarandeshwar Sugar Mill was used to take a loan of Rs 700 crore from Pune District Co-operative Bank.
Official from the central agency added, "Pawar was one of the prominent and influential members of Board of Directors of MSCB at the relevant time. The mill was purchased by Guru Commodity Services Pvt Ltd and was immediately leased to Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills Pvt Ltd, which is presently operating the Jarandeshwar sugar mill."
WHAT AJIT PAWAR SAID
A day after ED's attachment orders, Pawar denied his and his wife's involvement in the matter, saying that the matter was being 'deliberately politicised.'
Speaking to the press, the Maharashtra Deputy CM said that the sugar factory was sold according to the directions given by the Bombay High Court and he has no connection with Guru Commodity Services Pvt Ltd.
"The allegations levelled against me are politically motivated. The Jarandeshwar matter has already been probed by various agencies but nothing has came out of it. The issue is being deliberately politicised, putting the future of many workers at stake. We are taking legal advice in the matter," Pawar said, IANS reported.
Pawar also talked about cooperating with the agency's investigation and said he is ready to present all the evidence during the investigation.
He added that the ED has the right to an inquiry, and the Crime Investigation Department (CID) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had also previously probed the matter.
"You are saying it's a scam. Please show me where it (scam) is,", the leader said.
A month before the Maharashtra assembly elections in 2019, the ED had registered a case of money laundering against NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar on the basis of a Bombay High Court order.
After that, Sharad Pawar had himself reached the Mumbai office of ED for investigation, following which the politics of the state had become heated. Now, once again, through Ajit Pawar, the ED's grip on the Pawar family seems to be tightening.
At present, the ED's moves comes at a time when the Shiv Sena and its two ruling allies – the NCP and the Congress – are facing uncertainty in their relationship.
POLITICS AROUND ED?
After the seizing of assets, former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Kirit Somaiya alleged that the Pawar family has captured many sugar factories through the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank.
Somaiya demanded ED to seize MLA Rohit Pawar's assets, after accusing his Baramati Agro Private Limited of having bought the Kannada Co-Operative sugar mill at a low price.
Sanjay Raut said that the MVA government will not break even if the army is deployed in the state. He took a dig at ED and CBI, saying that everyone knows how they are working and added that central agencies should not be used to topple state governments.
ANIL DESHMUKH'S 100-CRORE BRIBERY CASE
Ajit is the second high-profile Maharashtra leader to come under the ED's scanner.
On 26 June, former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was issued fresh summons by the ED after he sought more time to appear for questioning in the Rs 100-crore bribery case that led to his resignation in April.
Deshmukh's personal secretary Sanjeev Palande and personal assistant Kundan Shinde, who had been taken in for interrogation by the ED on 25 June, were booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after nine hours of questioning.
(With inputs from IANS)
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