Anil Deshmukh, the former Maharashtra home minister was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after being questioned for over 12 hours at its office in connection with a money laundering and corruption case filed against him. He was kept at the ED office from 12 noon to until after midnight. The Indian Express reported that Deshmukh was placed under arrest at around 1:30 am for violating the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Deshmukh has skipped at least five summons of the ED and also moved the Bombay High Court seeking to quash these summons. Deshmukh was taken into custody almost six months after the ED first registered a case against him for obtaining money illegally from bar owners in Mumbai when the minister was in office.
The ED’s additional director and several ED officials arrived from Delhi earlier today to record Deshmukh’s statement. The directorate has sought a 14-day remind for Deshmukh.
According to the first information report (FIR) filed by the CBI in April 2021 alleging corruption and bribery by the then minister, the ED is investigating a money laundering case against Deshmukh. As part of its investigation, the ED found that Deshmukh, as home minister, accepted approximately Rs 4.7 crores in cash from various bar owners between December 2020 and February 2021, through the now-dismissed Mumbai police assistant inspector Sachin Waze. Out of this amount, about Rs 4.18 crores was then deposited in cash with four Delhi-based shell companies – Reliable Finance Corporation Pvt. Ltd, VA Realcon Pvt. Ltd., Utsav Securities Pvt. Ltd. and Sital Leasing and Finance Pvt. ltd. All of his money was donated to the Shri Sai Shikshan Sansthan Trust, which is headed by Anil Deshmukh.
Moreover, the ED alleges that Deshmukh’s Worli flat that is registered in his wife’s name was bought in 2004 in cash, but the sale deed was executed only in February 2020, when Deshmukh was serving as the home minister. Additionally, the Deshmukh family has reportedly acquired 50 percent ownership in Premier Port Links Pvt. Ltd., including its assets valued at approximately Rs 5.34 crores by merely paying Rs 17.95 lakhs. Amidst its investigation of the case, the ED arrested Deshmukh’s personal assistant Kundan Shinde and private secretary Sanjeev Palande. Shinde and Palande remain in prison at the moment.
Deshmukh has characterised the ED investigation as a witch-hunt. He said that the investigating agency has handled the case in a non-transparent and unfair manner. According to Deshmukh’s statement released yesterday, he has always complied with the law, but vested interests have created false narratives in his favour.
“On account of a witch-hunt campaign launched at the instance of certain vested inimical interests, some blatantly false allegations have been levelled by those persons who have absolutely no credibility, honour or pride. These unscrupulous persons are themselves knee-deep involved in several rackets of extortion and even murder. The principal person who held the high office of the commissioner of police is now a wanted absconding criminal,” said Deshmukh.
Deshmukh said in a video message that he had offered to cooperate in the probe even before appearing before the ED. “I have received ED summons and the media has wrongly reported that I am not cooperating with the investigation. After every summon, I informed the ED that my petition is pending before the courts and that I will produce myself before the ED after their outcomes. My staff and my family have always cooperated with the ED during the searches. I have also recorded my statements with the CBI. Today I am appearing before the ED,” he said.
Nawab Malik, a spokesperson for the NCP, said that Deshmukh’s arrest was politically motivated and targeted at maligning the image of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. According to Malik, “the entire arrest of Deshmukh was politically motivated”. He believes it was done to frighten the Maha Vikas Aghadi (Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance).
Deshmukh was summoned to appear before the ED by the Bombay HC on October 29, and the court refused to quash the summons. While Deshmukh was being questioned by the ED, his lawyer was permitted to remain present at a visible distance, but not audibly.
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In addition to the ED, Deshmukh is under investigation by the income tax department and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). He is being investigated in two separate cases by the CBI. The first case involves allegations made by Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh against the NCP leader. The CBI is also investigating its own sub-inspector Abhishek Tiwari and Deshmukh’s lawyer Anand Daga for the alleged leak of an official report as part of an investigation into allegations that police officers were forced to collect bribes for him. The leaked document purports to be the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) report signed by DySP R.S. Gunjiyal, which found no cognisable offence against Deshmukh.
Several educational institutions of a trust owned by the Deshmukh family were accused of tax evasion by the income tax department. Apparently, Deshmukh concealed about 17 crores of income to evade taxes. The department claims that educational institutions have “indulged in inflation” in the amount of Rs 12 crores. In addition, the taxman found evidence that the trust received “bogus donations” of Rs 4 crores through companies based in Delhi.