Three months after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis alleged that Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik has 'underworld links,' the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday, 23 February, arrested the latter in connection with a money laundering case involving gangster Dawood Ibrahim.
While the exact nature of the case is yet unclear, sources told The Quint that it involves a shady land deal which has links to Dawood Ibrahim.
The arrest comes after a passionate feud between the BJP and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Malik. While the latter had accused Fadnavis of protecting Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) official Sameer Wankhede, the saffron party leader had 'exposed' Malik's alleged mafia dealings.
Here's some background of the controversies.
Devendra Fadnavis vs Nawab Malik: Allegations of Underworld Ties, Illicit Land Deals
Devendra Fadnavis's Allegations Against Malik
In a series of allegations made by Devendra Fadnavis in November 2021, the BJP leader accused Nawab Malik of having had dealings over property with people from the underworld who have been convicted in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case.
"He purchased land from convicts of the case on rates cheaper than market rates. Was this deal to save prime land from being forfeited under TADA law?" Fadnavis had asked.
The former Maharashtra CM went on to claim that he had in his possession documents of five of Malik's property deals, four of which were allegedly linked to the underworld.
Fadnavis had also alleged that in 2005, Malik's son Faraz had bought land on LBS Road from a Mumbai bombing accused.
"A prime land on LBS Road in Kurla was bought at a meagre price of Rs 30 lakh when the market rate was Rs 2,053 per square feet in 2005. Malik was a minister in the Congress-NCP government in 2005," he stated, adding that the property was bought from blast convicts Salim Patel and Sardar Shahab Ali Khan.
Fadnavis claimed that the total deal for the plot was Rs 30 lakh but the amount paid was only Rs 20 lakh. “The amount went to the accounts of Salim Patel and SA Khan,” he said.
The BJP leader had said that he would send the proof of his claims to competent authorities.
A day after Fadnavis made the aforementioned claims, Maharashtra Minorities Affairs Minister Nawab Malik held a press conference, wherein he suggested that Fadnavis had links with the members of the mafia:
"Nagpur's notorious criminal Munna Yadav was appointed chairman of Construction Workers' Board by Devendra Fadnavis during his government. One Haidar Azam, involved in illegal immigration of Bangladeshis, was appointed chairman of Maulana Azad Finance Corporation by Fadnavis."
"One Riyaz Bhati, a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, was arrested at Mumbai airport with a fake passport. He was allowed bail in 2 days only. Why was Riyaz Bhati in close contact with you (Devendra Fadnavis)? Bhati has been seen with many big leaders in pictures," the NCP leader added.
On Sameer Wankhede, Malik's Accusations Against NCB & Fadnavis
The NCB, led by Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, had arrested Nawab Malik's son-in-law Samir Khan in January 2021, catapulting the NCP leader and minister into controversy's lap.
Months later, when Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan was arrested in the drugs-on-cruise case in October 2021, Nawab Malik made a series of verbal jabs against Sameer Wankhede, who was heading the investigation of the case at the time.
Among some of the main accusations made by the state minister were:
The NCB had implicated his son-in-law in a fake drugs case
Wankhede and his wife were in Maldives and Dubai at the same time as the film industry, where 'extortion' deals were made
Despite being born Muslim, Wankhede claimed he belonged to a Scheduled Caste and used forgery to acquire a government job
Wankhede ran a liquor bar in Navi Mumbai which violated the central government's service rules
Malik had further alleged that Fadnavis was supporting Wankhede. "Sameer Wankhede is the kingpin who is running a drug racket in Mumbai... He was appointed by (Devendra) Fadnavis," he had said.
Malik had also alleged that the BJP leader was attempting to defend Wankhede in the bribery allegations that had been levelled against the official in the drugs-on-cruise case.
The minister had further claimed that Wankhede and Fadnavis were involved in the covering up of a fake note racket following demonetisation.
"On 8 October 2017, DRI conducted raids at BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex) in which counterfeit notes with a face value of 14.56 crores were seized. Devendra Fadnavis had helped suppress this matter," the minister had stated, adding, "Sameer Wankhede's appointment to the post of Intelligence Revenue was done on 1 July 2017. How has Wankhede been getting postings in Mumbai for the last several years?"
Denying the allegations made by Malik, Fadnavis had accused the state minister of 'politicising' the NCB case.
'Controversy To Frame Me in Anil Deshmukh Style': Nawab Malik
After the war of words with Fadnavis, Malik, late in November 2021, had claimed that a conspiracy was underway to frame him in an 'Anil Deshmukh-style fake case,' allegedly at the 'behest' of some officials in central agencies.
Talking to mediapersons, Malik claimed that he had acquired some emails and WhatsApp chats of officers of central probe agencies "instigating" people to lodge false complaints against him.
He had said that he has acquired solid evidence that "a plot is being hatched to trap him in a false case like that of former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, currently in judicial custody."
"They are making enquiries about my family, my grandchildren, my own movements, clicking pictures of my home and offices... Last week, when I travelled abroad (Dubai), they had come again, but were given a hot chase by some people in my locality as they took unauthorised photos of my home," Malik had claimed.