The Enforcement Directorate has filed a money laundering case against former Maharashtra minister Anil Deshmukh, PTI reported on Tuesday. The case was registered on the basis of the first information report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation against the Nationalist Congress Party leader on corruption charges.
Unidentified officials told India Today that ED investigators were likely to issue summons to the former minister and others from his office in the coming days. The central agency, officials said, will look into Deshmukh’s financial records and transactions, according to The Indian Express.
The case against Deshmukh relates to the allegations made by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, who claims that the former minister had used its political clout to extort large sums of money through illegal channels.
Though Deshmukh has constantly denied any impropriety, he resigned from the state Cabinet on April 5 after the Bombay High Court had directed the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry into allegations against him.
On April 24, the CBI said there was prima facie evidence that Deshmukh had used his official position to get his subordinates to extort money from bars, restaurants and hotels in Mumbai, as alleged by Singh.
The central agency charged him under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act which deals with illegal gratification obtained by a public servant and for criminal conspiracy under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code.
Meanwhile, Deshmukh’s political outfit, the Nationalist Congress Party, alleged that the Enforcement Directorate’s case was politically motivated. The party’s national spokesperson Nawab Malik said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre was trying to defame the Maharashtra government.
“Right from Singh’s allegations to the filing of the case by the ED, it is all politically motivated and aimed at defaming him by misusing power,” he added, according to PTI. “It is clear that the BJP is playing politics using the CBI, ED and other Central agencies.”
Nonetheless, Malik said that Deshmukh will cooperate in the investigation.
In a series of tweets, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant alleged that the ED case reflected the “dangerous politics” being pursued by the Modi government, which he said was detrimental to democracy.
It’s an attempt to cover up Modi govt’s failure to handle Corona crisis and divert public’s attention, as well as political revenge,” Sawant said, adding that the “actions of these national investigative agencies have become a joke”.
Allegations against Deshmukh
On March 20, Singh had accused Deshmukh of extorting money from bars, restaurants and hookah parlours in Mumbai. In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the former police chief wrote that suspended Crime Branch officer Sachin Vaze told him that the minister had asked him to collect Rs 100 crore every month through illegal channels.
Singh had also accused the former state home minister of frequently interfering with police investigations in various cases.
On April 7, suspended Mumbai Police officer Vaze corroborated Singh’s allegations against Deshmukh. In a letter he intended to submit to the special National Investigation Agency court, Vaze alleged that Deshmukh and Transport Minister Anil Parab demanded more than Rs 100 crore from him. Vaze is facing proceedings in connection with the explosives found near the home of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, and the subsequent death of businessman Mansukh Hiren.