In a major jolt, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has provisionally attached assets worth around Rs 4.21 crore belonging to former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh and his family, officials said here on Friday.
The ED action came a day after the Maharashtra government ordered a probe by the state Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) against former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, who had written a letter in April alleging corrupt activities by Deshmukh.
In Friday’s ED action, the assets attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) are held in the name of Deshmukh’s wife Aarti Deshmukh and a company, Premier Port Links Pvt. Ltd.
They include a residential flat in Worli worth Rs 1.54 crore, 25 land parcels worth Rs 2.67 crore at Dhutum village in Raigad district adjoining Mumbai, as part of the probe into money-laundering lodged against them.
It maybe recalled that following a first information report registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the ED had started a probe into money laundering by several persons including Deshmukh, a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader.
The CBI lodged its FIR following Singh’s letter and allegations by a junior police official Sachin Vaze, alleging that Deshmukh had set a target to collect Rs 100 crore per month from various restaurants and bars in Mumbai.
The ED contended that when he was the home minister, Deshmukh, 72, allegedly received bribes worth Rs 4.70 crore in cash from various bars through Vaze, which sparked off a major political controversy in the state and ultimately led to the minister’s resignation.
Using dummy companies based in Delhi, the Deshmukh family had allegedly laundered the tainted Rs 4.18 crore and showed it as an amount received by a trust, the Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha.
Further investigations by the ED revealed that a flat in the posh Worli area owned by Deshmukh was registered in his wife’s (Aarti) name, with the entire payment made in cash in 2004, but the sale deed was made in February 2020, when he was the state home minister.
The ED stated that the Deshmukh family had acquired 50 percent ownership of Premier Port Links Pvt. Ltd. including its assets like land and shops, valued around Rs 5.34 crore, by paying merely Rs 17.95 lakhs after a substantial gap.
The agency added that further investigations are underway against Deshmukh and others for attempting to obtain undue advantage for improper and dishonest performance of their public duty.
Meanwhile, Deshmukh has skipped at least three summons by the ED, and his wife and son Hrishikesh have also not yet appeared before the probe agency.
Charging the ED action against him and his family as unjustified and a political vendetta, the embattled Deshmukh has moved the Supreme Court in the matter.