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CBI enters South Bombay clubs to seek dirt on Anil Deshmukh

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is looking at every nook and corner to build its case against the former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh. The premier agency has asked some of the tony South Bombay clubs, where Deshmukh is a member, to share specific information related to his membership.

The clubs have been told to submit all documents related to membership of Deshmukh as well as receipts of payments for membership fees and outstanding dues paid in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The notices were served to the clubs around mid-April – less than a fortnight after Deshmukh, a leader of the Sharad Pawar-headed Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was arrested by CBI. “How did he become a member of the clubs? Who introduced him to the clubs? Who cleared his membership dues? Was the money paid in cash? So, the agency could well be checking whether as minister he had used his influence to make the clubs oblige. They are looking for some links.. This could help CBI extend the ambit of the probe (related to alleged extortion) and assert its point that as minister Deshmukh had misused his office,” said a source.

According to the notices issued under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the agency has also asked for any paper linked to Deshmukh which the clubs may be in possession of. (Section 91, among other things, deals with the power of the officer in charge to ask for documents necessary for a probe).

Deshmukh was arrested earlier this month in a case pertaining to corruption and criminal conspiracy. CBI is also probing Deshmukh for misusing his office as Maharashtra’s home minister for allegedly awarding favourable postings to police officers for huge considerations paid to him via intermediaries.


PIL by Former Police Chief

CBI has also arrested Deshmukh’s personal assistant Kundan Shinde, personal secretary Sanjeev Palande and dismissed police officer Sachin Waze in connection with the case. Custody was sought to confront Deshmukh with the arrested accused on the allegations of collecting money from owners of bars and restaurants.

The agency’s probe is based on the allegations levelled by former Mumbai police chief, Param Bir Singh in his PIL filed before the Bombay High Court. In his eight-page letter addressed to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, Singh had alleged that Deshmukh had directed Waze to collect ₹100 crore every month, including ₹40-50 crore from some 1,750 bars and restaurants in Mumbai. The letter was a part of the PIL filed by Singh.

Deshmukh is being probed by multiple agencies including the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax department. Deshmukh was first arrested on November 2 by the ED. On December 29, the federal anti-money laundering agency filed a supplementary chargesheet in the said case against Deshmukh calling him the ‘prime mover’ in the case. The chargesheet states that Deshmukh demanded ”good luck’ money from orchestra bars and restaurants for their ‘smooth functioning’.

The probe by the two agencies has revealed that at least 13 companies, allegedly directly controlled by family members of Deshmukh, and at least 14, controlled by the family through close associates, were utilised for the purpose of alleged money handling. The ED has attached assets worth ₹4.20 crore.

In ED’s second supplementary chargesheet filed in February, reviewed by ET, the agency claimed that over ₹13 crore is suspected to have been laundered by Deshmukh and his family members since 2011 – of which ₹2.83 crore has been laundered during his tenure as the home minister of Maharashtra.

The chargesheet further states that the companies were allegedly floated by Deshmukh for layering unaccounted monies through interconnected transactions without any rational or underlying business. “Deshmukh family have worked as a monolith and all the companies are unconnected and interlocked and deeply involved in affairs of each other,” the chargesheet adds.

In his statement before the ED, Singh has reiterated the allegations of extortion and has also alleged that the members of the Police Establishment Board (PEB) responsible for making recommendation for posting of all senior officers in the state, was a mere ‘rubber stamp’ and the list of the name used to be prepared in Deshmukh’s office.

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