The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has booked Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in a criminal case of money laundering linked to the alleged ₹25,000 crore scam in Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB), officials said on Tuesday (September 24).
They said that an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), equivalent of a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against all the accused.
The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR that had named the then directors of the bank, Ajit Pawar and 70 former functionaries of the cooperative bank. Sharad Pawar, chief of the NCP and a former chief minister of Maharashtra, has been named in the ECIR on the basis of the police FIR, they said.
The registration of the case comes ahead of the October 21 Assembly polls in Maharashtra. The accused will soon be summoned by the agency to record their statements. Diliprao Deshmukh, Isharlal Jain, Jayant Patil, Shivaji Rao, Anand Rao Adsul, Rajendra Shingane and Madan Patil are among the accused in the ED case.
The ED slapped criminal charges of money laundering on the basis of the Mumbai Police FIR that was filed in August this year, which itself was filed on the basis of a similar complaint by the state economic offences wing (EOW).
The EOW was asked by the Bombay High Court to file a case after a bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and SK Shinde said there was “credible evidence” against the accused in the case.
As per the police FIR, the state exchequer allegedly suffered losses to the tune of ₹25,000 crore due to the MSCB scam between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2017. The offence has been registered against the then chief ministers, deputy chief ministers, ministers, politicians, government officials, the then directors and senior officials of MSCB, district central bank, and directors of Pen Cooperative Bank, according to the FIR.
Ajit Pawar had served as deputy chief minister of the state from November 10, 2010 to September 26, 2014.
Other accused in the police FIR include Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) leader Jayant Patil and the then directors and senior officials from the superseded banks units in 34 districts in the state. They have been booked by the police under Sections 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 409 (Criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent), 406 (Punishment for criminal breach of trust), 465 (Punishment for forgery), 467 (Forgery of valuable security, will, etc) and 120 (B) ( Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
An inspection by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as well as a charge sheet filed by a quasi-judicial inquiry commission under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies (MCS) Act had blamed the “decisions, actions and inactions” of Ajit Pawar and the other accused for the loss.
The NABARD audit report revealed a breach of several banking laws and RBI guidelines by the accused in distribution of loans to sugar factories and spinning mills, and subsequent default on repayment and recovery of such loans.
An activist, Surinder Arora, had filed a complaint with the EOW in 2015 and approached the high court, seeking that an FIR be registered.
In view of the deficiencies pointed out by NABARD, the RBI had in May 2011 directed to supersede the MSCB board of directors and appoint an administrator to look after its affairs.
The High Court had held that prima facie, NABARD’s inspection report, the complaint, and the charge sheet under the MCS Act showed there existed “credible evidence” against the accused in the case.