Saturday, June 19, 2021

India’s anti-graft agency files money laundering case against ex-home minister Anil Deshmukh

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday registered a case of money laundering against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh. The case, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), was registered on the basis of an FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), said people familiar with the development.

The CBI case claims that ex-Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh and “unknown others” had used their official position to obtain an undue advantage, as well as influenced the transfers and postings in the Mumbai Police, as alleged by former city police commissioner Param Bir Singh. ED was probing the financial aspects of the CBI case, as the central anti-money laundering agency is mandated to do so in any scheduled offense.

Former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh had alleged that Anil Deshmukh, when he was the Maharashtra home minister, had asked the then assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze to collect 100 crore every month from hotels, bars, and restaurants in Mumbai. Vaze, later suspended, is currently behind bars in the February 25 Antilia explosives scare case as well as the alleged murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran on March 5.

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CBI found “prima facie” truth in these allegations after the Bombay high court asked the premier anti-corruption agency to look into the allegations against Anil Deshmukh as part of a preliminary inquiry. Later, the case was converted into a regular First Information Report (FIR) and the agency teams raided the former Maharashtra home minister’s residences in Mumbai and Nagpur last Saturday. The ED has said that it was “looking into” the CBI FIR, considering that the allegations involving a 100 crore sum each month are “huge” and warrants a case of public importance.

The “unknown others” named by CBI in its FIR are suspected to be other government officials in Maharashtra who will now be probed formally. Unlike the CBI, the ED can record a statement from any person in a case under section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and it is admissible as evidence in court.

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — an ally in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government in the state — has called the actions against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh in the alleged extortion racket case as “politically motivated”.

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