A court in Mumbai quashed the attachment of seven flats worth over Rs 180 crore, owned by Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel, in a money-laundering case, reported The Times of India on Thursday.

The order was passed on Monday by a Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act appellate tribunal.

The Enforcement Directorate had attached the flats, owned by Patel, his wife and their company Millennium Developers, in 2022. The properties are located at Ceejay House in Mumbai’s upscale Worli area.

The central agency alleged that the Patels had illegally acquired the properties from Hazra Memon, wife of the late drug dealer Iqbal Mirchi. It said that the properties were attached after Memon and her two sons were declared fugitive economic offenders.

On Monday, the appellate tribunal held that the central agency’s action was illegal and that the properties were not involved in money laundering or linked to Mirchi, reported The Times of India.

The tribunal also said that all properties belonging to Memon and her sons in Ceejay House had been attached separately and that a “double attachment” of the Patels’ properties was not required since they were not part of the proceeds of crime.

The court order comes 11 months after Patel, along with several other senior leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party faction headed by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, joined Maharashtra’s Maha Yuti government comprising the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.

The move had led to a split in the Nationalist Congress Party, with one faction supporting party founder Sharad Pawar and the other backing Ajit Pawar. The Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party is part of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which is expected to form the government at the Centre after the recent Lok Sabha elections.

Earlier in March, the Central Bureau of Investigation had closed a 2017 case against Patel in connection with alleged irregularities in the leasing of aircraft for Air India.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has alleged that in 2006, Patel abused his position as the Union aviation minister to lease several aircraft to Air India to benefit private players. The agency alleged that this was done even though Air India, then a public carrier, was expecting the delivery of its own aircraft from July 2007.

The lease agreement was finalised by the civil aviation ministry and the National Aviation Corporation of India, a body formed after the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.

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