Bhujbal sent to two days’ ED custody

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Mumbai, March 15 (IANS) A court on Tuesday sent former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who was arrested on corruption charges, to two days custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The ED had interrogated the senior Nationalist Congress Party leader for nearly 11 hours on Monday in the various corruption cases against him and arrested late night.

Charged under provisions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), he was produced by the ED before a Special PMLA Court on Tuesday evening which granted the agency two days custody to interrogate him further.

Seeking his remand, ED counsel Hiten Vengaonkar said that Bhujbal failed to cooperate when his statement was being recorded by the agency on Monday.

For most questions put to Bhujbal, the response was ‘he did not know’, he said.

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An emotional Bhujbal pleaded innocence and said that he had cooperated.

“I have not done any wrong. I have cooperated and am being framed as part of a conspiracy. When some questions were put (by the ED), I genuinely said I did not know and yet I was arrested,” he said, his eyes moist.

He added that he did not grant the contract (of constructing the Maharashtra Sadan, New Delhi), but had only obeyed the directives of the then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

He claimed that it was some disgruntled employees of the Mumbai Education Trust (MET) run by his family who created the story against him, referring to its founder-trustee Sunil Karve who had lodged a complaint of financial misappropriation against the Bhujbal family with the charity commissioner and the Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai Police.

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Bhujbal argued what was the need for the ED to arrest him when they could summon him anytime for interrogation in the matter.

Following the Mumbai Police case and complaints by BJP MP Kirit Somaiya the ED has filed two FIRs against his son Pankaj and nephew Samir and 14 others under the PMLA to probe the Maharashtra Sadan scam in New Delhi and the Kalina land grabbing scam in Mumbai.

While Samir was interrogated and arrested by the ED last month, later Pankaj was questioned and allowed to go, followed by Bhujbal’s arrest and subsequent remand.

The ED’s probe follows a Bombay High Court ruling in January when it sought progress reports from Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau and the ED within four weeks on their investigations against the Bhujbals.

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The ED had conducted searches twice at nine premises belonging to the Bhujbal trio and others, and subsequently served attachment orders on three prime properties linked to the Bhujbal family members worth over Rs.280 crore in Mumbai.

Simultaneously, the State Anti-Corruption Bureau had lodged a charge-sheet against the three Bhujbals and 14 others in the Maharashtra Sadan case.

The Maharashtra Sadan, a state government guest house in New Delhi, was constructed at a cost of Rs.100 crore during the tenure of the erstwhile Congress-NCP government.

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