Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut was on Monday sent to four-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an alleged land scam case. The probe agency had asked for eight days of custody but a special court granted custody for half the duration.
The Sena leader was allowed homemade food and medicine while in custody. In view of his illness, the necessary treatment and interrogation time should also be taken care of if needed, the court said.
“In view of the investigation so far and the facts found therein, I have come to the conclusion that the custody of the accused is necessary. But I do not agree to give 8 days’ custody. Hence the accused is given 4 days of ED custody,” the court said.
Arguments in court
The ED had produced Raut before the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court judge MG Deshpande. The ED, represented by special public prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar, told the court that Raut and his family were direct beneficiaries of the proceeds of crime.
Raut was summoned four times but he appeared before the agency only once. During this, he tried to tamper with the evidence and key witnesses, the agency’s lawyer alleged.
Senior advocate Ashok Mundargi, appearing for Raut, said that Raut’s arrest was politically motivated and submitted that since the Sena leader is a heart patient, he should not be questioned till late at night. The probe agency responded saying they normally inquire till 10 pm.
Before he was taken inside the courtroom, Raut told media, “This is a conspiracy to finish us.” Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP, is a key member of Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena.
Arrested for financial irregularities
The ED had arrested Raut on Sunday midnight in connection with alleged financial irregularities in the redevelopment of Patra chawl in Mumbai and related financial property transactions involving his wife and alleged associates.
In April, the ED provisionally attached assets worth over Rs 11.15 crore belonging to his wife Varsha Raut and two of his associates as part of this investigation.
The attached properties are in the form of land held by Pravin M Raut, Sanjay Raut’s aide and a former director of Guru Ashish Construction at Palghar, Saphale (town in Palghar) and Padgha (in Thane district). These assets also include a flat in Mumbai’s suburb Dadar held by Varsha Raut and eight plots at Kihim beach in Alibaug jointly held by Varsha Raut and Swapna Patkar, wife of Sujit Patkar, a “close associate” of Sanjay Raut, the ED had said.
Raut, 60, was arrested after over six hours of questioning at the ED’s zonal office in south Mumbai’s Ballard Estate. He was taken into custody at 12:05 am on Monday under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as he was not cooperating in the probe, the officials claimed.
An agency team had on Sunday reached his residence in Mumbai’s Bhandup area, where they conducted a search, questioned Raut, and by evening, summoned him for questioning at the agency’s local office. The team also seized Rs 11.5 lakh in cash during the search, the officials said.
The agency is understood to have questioned the Sena leader about his “business and other links” with Pravin Raut and Patkar and also about the property deals involving his wife.
Fadnavis defends ED’s action
Meanwhile, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said the ED’s action against Raut seems to be based on certain proofs. He was speaking to reporters after attending a review meeting held at Mantralaya in south Mumbai.
“The ED is a national probe agency. It must have taken action against Raut based on documents and proofs. I would not comment on this issue further. His arrest and other related issues will be discussed in the court,” said Fadnavis.