The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday night arrested Nationalist Congress Party leader Eknath Khadse’s son-in-law Girish Chaudhary in a money laundering case, reported PTI, citing officials. The case is linked to alleged irregularities in the purchase of a land plot in Pune in 2016.
The officials said that Chaudhary was arrested after the central agency questioned him at its office in Mumbai. They claimed that Chaudhary was not cooperative during the interrogation.
He is expected to be produced before a special court that tries cases registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Khadse, who was earlier with the Bharatiya Janata Party, too had faced allegations regarding the same land deal. In 2016, he was accused of misusing his official powers to facilitate the purchase of government land of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation by his family in Pune’s Bhosari area.
He had denied any wrongdoing, saying that the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Income Tax department had given him a clean chit in the matter. However, following the allegations, Khadse had resigned as the revenue minister from the Devendra Fadnavis-led government in June 2016. Later in 2020, he joined the NCP.
The Anti Corruption Bureau of Maharashtra had registered a first information report against Khadse, his wife Mandakini, Chaudhary, and land owner Abbas Aqani in 2017, reported India Today. The case was registered on allegations by realtor Hemant Gawande who accused Khadse of defrauding the exchequer in the land deal.
The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation had acquired the land from Aqani in 1971 but the land was a matter of dispute over compensation to the land owner, reported The Times of India. Khadse had then convened a meeting of revenue, MIDC and land acquisition officials on April 12, 2016. He had directed them to take a quick decision on whether to return the land to the Aqanis or give them a higher compensation under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. Two weeks later, the Aqanis made the sale deed in favour of Khadse’s wife and son-in-law.
After the Enforcement Directorate summoned Khadse in December 2020, he said that his family had bought the piece of land in Bhosari that was later declared as Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation plot and that it was a disputed land.
“My wife had purchased the land and I have no direct link with the purchase,” he had said. “Earlier, the same matter was investigated by the Pune Anti Corruption Bureau and then the Nashik Anti Corruption Bureau but they have submitted a closure report in the matter while one of the branches is in process of submitting the closure report in the High Court. Also, the Income Tax department had sought all information and we have provided it.”
After Khadse joined the NCP, the Enforcement Directorate questioned him in January. Later, he moved the Bombay High Court, seeking protection from arrest. He had alleged that the central agency summoned him only after he left the BJP and joined the Sharad Pawar-led party.
The agency, however, told the High Court that Khadse was not an accused as per its case information report, but added that he not responding to their queries may become a ground for arrest.