In what could be a big blow to the Pawar family, days ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday filed a money laundering case against National Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and 70 others in connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam case. According to officials, an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), equivalent to a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The registration of the case comes at a time when Assembly elections are due in Maharashtra in October 2019.
The MSCB scam case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR which had named the uncle-nephew duo and 70 former functionaries of the cooperative bank. The Mumbai police's Economic Offences Wing filed the FIR following a Bombay High Court order on August 22, saying that prima facie there was "credible evidence" against the accused and observed that they (Ajit Pawar and others) seemed to have "complete knowledge" that their actions would cause a huge loss to the bank.
Pawar, Diliprao Deshmukh, Isharlal Jain, Jayant Patil, Shivaji Rao, Anand Rao Adsul, Rajendra Shingane, Madan Patil and several former directors of the bank are accused of violating banking and RBI regulations while disbursing loans to sugar mills at very low rates and selling off assets of defaulter businesses at throw-away prices. Such sale of assets, disbursement of cheap loans and a failure to ensure repayment resulted in losses of over Rs 25,000 crore to the bank between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2017, it alleged. The accused also forged records and fudged figures to show the bank was making profits, it added.
All the accused 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).
Inquiries by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development and a charge sheet filed by a quasi-judicial inquiry commission under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act had blamed Pawar and other accused for the bank's losses. Surinder Arora, an activist, had filed a complaint against Pawar and others with the EOW in 2015. He approached the high court through his lawyer S B Talekar when no FIR was registered on his complaint.
In the judgment made available on August 22, the high court said the NABARD report indicated that these directors "were having complete knowledge regarding the transactions and in spite of that, either they sanctioned the loans to such units (that did not have the capacity to repay) and/or sold out the properties of such units at a throwaway price which resulted in a substantial loss to the Bank".
"The Inspection Report therefore not only points out the discrepancies or irregularities committed by the Bank and its directors but also points out that the trust reposed in the Bank and its officers has been brazenly breached. NPA (non-performing asset) Accounts were intentionally camouflaged, in as much as, the amount sanctioned and disbursed to the units wherein the Directors had interest," the HC added.
(With inputs from agencies)