Former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in the early hours of Tuesday in connection with the corruption and money laundering case against him.
The MLA from Katol has been arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Deshmukh had appeared before the ED on Monday and was subjected to questioning by ED officials for 11 hours. This is the sixth appearance of the 71-year-old NCP leader before the ED after the Bombay High Court rejected his plea to quash the ED summons.
Deshmukh alleged that the ED case registered against him is politically motivated and rejected claims that he was refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik called the arrest politically motivated and said, "The entire action is politically motivated. It is aimed at scaring the leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi".
Maharashtra state BJP President Chandrakant Patil said Deshmukh's arrest was proof of the Narendra Modi government's zero tolerance on corruption.
"After his arrest, there is tension in the social and political sphere with the mere thought that even a leader of his stature can be arrested. This arrest is a big example of PM Modi's zero-tolerance policy," Patil said.
What Are The Cases Against Deshmukh?
The cases filed against Deshmukh is linked with another high-profile case in the state, the Antilla bomb scare.
On February 25, an SUV with 20 gelatin sticks which is commonly used in explosives, was found abandoned near the house of billionaire Mukesh Ambani. The SUV carried the same registration number as that of a car in the Z-plus security detail of Ambani's wife Nita Ambani.
The National Investigation Agency arrested dismissed Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze, retired ACP Pradeep Sharma as well as other Mumbai Police personnel in connection with the case. The agency had booked the accused under various charges of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) as well as for the murder of Mansukh Hiran, one of the main person of interest in the case who owned the SUV in which the explosives were found.
Param Bir Singh was removed from his post as Mumbai Police Commissioner and was shunted to the Maharashtra Home Guard as the Director General.
Following his transfer from the high profile post, Singh wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray alleging that Deshmukh, the then Home Minister, had directed Vaze to extort Rs 100 crore every month from bars and restaurants in Mumbai and that his expulsion was the result of him trying to resist Deshmukh's interference in the Mumbai Police.
"I have been made a scapegoat to divert attention from the actual wrongdoers. It is not out of place to mention that there is no iota of material or evidence — far from proof — found against me or even imputed against me," Singh wrote.
Singh, who is also facing allegations of corruptions and extortion, has gone 'missing'. Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil said that a lookout notice has been issued against Singh and there is a possibility that the former Mumbai top cop could have fled the country.
Vaze submitted a letter to the NIA court supporting Singh's allegations, also adding that Deshmukh had demanded Rs 2 crore to get Vaze reinstated with the Mumbai Police. The disgraced officer also alleged that Transport Minister Anil Parab directed Vaze to approach the trustees of a trust facing an inquiry and to get Rs 50 crore to close the probe.
The NIA court refused to take the letter on record.
Central Bureau Of Investigation
On April 5, the Bombay High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to open an investigation into Singh's allegation. Deshmukh subsequently resigned from his post.
The CBI questioned Deshmukh and raided his house before filing an FIR on charges of bribery, corruption and criminal conspiracy.
In September, the CBI's Preliminary Enquiry (PE) report was leaked. The PE, signed by Investigating Officer DySP RS Gunjiyal, said that no cognizable offence was made out against Deshmukh.
The CBI arrested Deshmukh's lawyer Anand Daga and its own sub-inspector Abhishek Tiwari for the leak. A month later, the agency raided the former Home Minister's residences in Mumbai and Nagpur.
The ED filed a case against Deshmukh under PMLA for allegedly obtaining illegal gratification on May 11. On June 27, the agency alleged that Vaze collected Rs 4.7 crore from bar owners between December 2020 and February 2021 under Deshmukh's orders.
The Indian Express reported that Vaze had collected Rs 4.70 crore from bars for "smooth functioning" and handed it over to Deshmukh's private assistant, Kundan Shinde. Approximately Rs 4.18 crore of this money was then deposited with four Delhi-based shell companies — Reliable Finance Corporation, VA Realcon, Utsav Securities and Sital Leasing and Finance who then donated the entire amount to Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha Trust, a charitable trust headed by Deshmukh.
Income Tax Department
On September 17, the Income Tax department carried out raids at 30 locations linked to Deshmukh across Maharashtra and found that income of Rs 17 cr was concealed.
The IT department also alleged that three educational institutions of a trust linked with Deshmukh inflated expenses via salaries with money being collected back from employees in cash.
Has Deshmukh Cooperated With The ED and CBI's Investigations?
The ED issued summons to Deshmukh on June 26, July 3, July 30, August 17 with the agency issuing a look-out circular after Deshmukh failed to appear before it.
After seeking an exemption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Deshmukh approached the Bombay High Court to quash the summons. On October 29, the HC rejected Deshmukh's plea and directed him to appear before the ED.
It also allowed Deshmukh's lawyer to be within visual range of Deshmukh during his interrogation but out of audible range.
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