Bombay HC grands bail NCP leader Sameer Bhujbal in money laundering case


Mumbai:
The High Court today granted bail to NCP leader Sameer Bhujbal, the nephew of former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, in a 2016 money laundering case.

Justice AS Gadkari granted bail to Sameer on the primary grounds that the main accused, Chhagan Bhujbal, had already been extended a similar relief by another bench of the HC, and that Sameer had already been in custody for over two years for an offence that entails a maximum punishment of seven years.

Justice Gadkari also took into account the primary argument of Sameer’s lawyer Vikram Chaudhary that in November 2017, the Supreme Court had struck down section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act which imposed stringent conditions on granting of bail to persons charged under this law.

The HC directed Sameer, a former MP of NCP, to deposit his passport at the special PMLA court and to make him available for questioning whenever required. The HC also asked him not to leave the city without its permission.

Sameer has also been directed to furnish a surety of Rs 5 lakh to secure the bail.

Sameer, Chhagan Bhujbal, and 51 others were charged by the Enforcement Directorate in 2016 for various offences, including the alleged Maharashtra Sadan scam.

While Chhagan Bhujbal was granted bail on May 4 this year by another bench of the HC, a vacation bench of Justice Bharati Dangre had last week refused to grant any interim relief to Sameer.

Court refuses bail to Chhagan Bhujbal, nephew Sameer Bhujbal

Court refuses bail to Chhagan Bhujbal, nephew Sameer Bhujbal
Court refuses bail to Chhagan Bhujbal, nephew Sameer Bhujbal

In a major setback to former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal, a local court today rejected his bail application in connection with cases filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The court also rejected the bail application of his nephew and former Lok Sabha member Sameer Bhujbal.

“Both the bail applications are rejected,” said special PMLA judge M S Azmi.

The order copy will be available later, he said.

The court had rejected the former public works minister’s bail plea, filed on medical grounds, earlier too.

Last month, the Supreme Court struck down a stringent condition for securing bail for a person accused of money laundering, saying it was “manifestly arbitrary”.

Section 45(1) of the PMLA which imposes conditions such as hearing the prosecutor before the bail is granted, was “unreasonable”, the top court had said.

Bail applications of Bhujbals were pending at that time.

After the SC ruling, the court here heard the arguments afresh.

Special public prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar argued that the onus of proving that the alleged proceeds of crime were untainted was on the accused.

He added that the Bhujbals’ bail applications mentioned Rs 30 crore, but during interrogation, they admitted to laundering money to the tune of Rs 800 crore.

Chhagan Bhujbal is an influential person and may tamper with evidence. Investigation as to his foreign investments is yet to be over, the prosecutor said.

In 2015, the Enforcement Directorate had registered two ‘Enforcement Case Information Reports’ (ECIRs) under the PMLA against the NCP leader, suspecting illegal transactions to the tune of Rs 900 crore in all.

The first case was about the Maharashtra Sadan and Kalina land allotment scams, while the second was related to a housing project at Navi Mumbai by a construction firm promoted by the Bhujbal family. The firm owners were accused of duping flat buyers after collecting advance.

( Source – PTI )

Bhujbal back in jail after lengthy hospital stay

Bhujbal back in jail after lengthy hospital stay
Bhujbal back in jail after lengthy hospital stay

Following a lower court order and rejection of bail plea by the Bombay High Court, former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal was sent back to Arthur Road jail here from a government hospital.

Bhujbal was sent to the Arthur Road Jail late tonight, said Dr T P Lahane, Dean of the J J Hospital.

The Bombay High Court today dismissed the NCP leader’s plea seeking bail and challenging arrest under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). While the special PMLA court directed that he be shifted from hospital to Arthur Road jail.

The jail authorities had told the PMLA court that Bhujbal, 69, had refused to undergo angiography thrice, and his continued stay in the hospital would serve no purpose.

High Court, which rejected Bhujbal’s bail plea, observed that he had failed to show that his arrest is wholly illegal, null and void.

Bhujbal had sought bail on medical grounds. He also said that his arrest by Enforcement Directorate (ED) was not as per the procedures established by law.

Bhujbal, whose stay at the private-run Bombay Hospital here since November 2 prompted criticism that he was receiving preferential treatment, was discharged from there on December 8 and sent back to the government-run J J Hospital.

An intervention application filed by activist Anjali Damania had said it was “sheer negligence of duty” by J J Hospital and Arthur Road jail that Bhujbal was in Bombay Hospital since November 2.

On October 27, special judge P R Bhavake had allowed Bhujbal to be taken to a private hospital after he was told that a Thallium scan, one of the three tests recommended for Bhujbal, was not available at the government hospital.

On October 28, prison authorities took Bhujbal to government-run J J Hospital for the other two tests. He was then transferred to Bombay Hospital.

Bhujbal was arrested on March 14 by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land case in which he and his relatives were alleged to have received kickbacks. He was PWD Minister in the Congress-NCP government.

( Source – PTI )

Court rejects ED plea for Bhujbal’s further custody

Chhagan Bhujba
Chhagan Bhujba

Mumbai, A court here today rejected Enforcement Directorate’s plea for further custody of former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister of Chhagan Bhujbal, arrested in a money laundering case, saying sufficient grounds were not made out for this.

ED had sought seven more days custody of Bhujbal but judge P R Bhavke of the special court for Prevention of Money Laundering Act cases sent the senior NCP leader in judicial custody till March 31, saying “sufficient ground was not made out for further remand”.

Bhujbal, arrested on March 14, will be lodged in high- security Arthur Road jail here now.

Bhujbal told the court today that statements of some of the witnesses were lies and concocted stories.

Referring to the statement of one of the witnesses who is employee of the Mumbai Education Trust controlled by the Bhujbal family that he had seen bags of cash being brought to the office, Bhujbal questioned what was he doing there.

“I had gone gone to MET office’s guest house late in the night (that day) as I had to catch a flight early in the morning. What was this witness….doing there late at night when the people at MET leave for home at 5.30 pm?” he said.

The NCP leader also complained that yesterday ED officers recorded his statement till 4.30 pm and again turned up to question him further at 11.30 at night.

“I told them they can take my statement early in the morning today. I woke up early today. I told the ED officials that we have to go to the court today, so why were they delaying. They said they were busy with other work and kept me waiting,” he told the court.

Money laundering case: Bhujbal sent to ED custody

Chhagan Bhujbal
Chhagan Bhujbal

Mumbai, Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal was today remanded in custody of Enforcement Directorate till March 17 by a special court here, a day after he was arrested by the agency in a money laundering case in connection with the alleged Maharashtra Sadan scam.

Bhujbal, a former deputy chief minister, was produced before the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court where ED counsel Hiten Venegaonkar said he did not cooperate when his statement was recorded by the agency yesterday.

“For most of the questions put to him, his answer was ‘he doesn’t know’,” Venegaonkar told the court.

The court then remanded Bhujbal in ED custody till Thursday.

Bhujbal was put under arrest last night after 10-hour questioning by ED at its Ballard Pier office in South Mumbai.

Bhujbal became emotional while pleading innocence and his eyes became misty.

He told the court he had not done anything wrong and he was being framed as part of a conspiracy.

“I have not done anything wrong. I have cooperated. I have been into social service for the past 50 years. When some questions were put to me (by ED), I genuinely said that I did not know, but still I was arrested,” he said.

Bhujbal said he did not grant the contract in question and merely followed the directions of then Chief Minister (late) Vilasrao Deshmukh.

“CM Vilasrao Deshmukh told me to take meetings and I followed that. I did not grant contract,” he said.

Bhujbal said some disgruntled employees of the Mumbai Education Trust (MET), a trust run by him, cooked up the story against him.

MET founder trustee Sunil Karve had lodged a complaint of alleged misappropriation of funds with the EOW and the charity commissioner against Bhujbal and his family.

“Why am I arrested when they can call me again and again to ED. It’s a conspiracy to frame me,” he told the court.

ED filed two FIRs against Bhujbal, his son and nephew and others under the provisions of PMLA, based on Mumbai Police FIRs, to probe the Delhi-based Maharashtra Sadan construction scam and the Kalina land grabbing case.

The new Maharashtra Sadan was built at the cost of Rs 100 crore when Congress-NCP coalition was in power in Maharashtra.

The senior NCP leader had alleged political vendetta behind his arrest.

The ED had registered a PMLA case involving the Bhujbals and some of their associates and has already arrested the ex-minister’s nephew Samir last month in the case.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau has already filed a charge sheet against Chhagan Bhujbal, Pankaj, Sameer and 14 others in the Maharashtra Sadan scam case.

PTI

ACB files charge sheet against Chhagan Bhujbal

ACB files charge sheet against Chhagan Bhujbal
ACB files charge sheet against Chhagan Bhujbal

The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau today filed a charge sheet against senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and others in the Maharashtra Sadan scam.

Besides Bhujbal, who was PWD minister in the Congress-NCP government in the state, his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer and 14 others are named in the charge sheet.

The charge sheet, which runs into 20,000 pages, contains statements of over 60 witnesses.

An ACB officer said that the investigation revealed that in the construction of ‘Maharashtra Sadan’ (the state guest house in Delhi), contractor earned 80 per cent profit, while the rules allowed only 20 percent margin. “The accounts were fudged to show that the profit earned was only one percent,” he said.

Chamankar Associates, the contractor firm, transferred money to Niche Infrastructure and other companies in which Pankaj and Sameer were directors, he said.

“Most of the companies floated by Bhujbals are in the name of their employees and used for syphoning off funds. Niche was earlier owned by employees of Maharashtra Educational Trust. Bhujbals later became directors of MET,” the ACB officer said.

The original cost estimate for Maharashtra Sadan was Rs 13.5 crore, but later it was increased to Rs 50 crore. The Bhujbals got Rs 13.5 crore in kickbacks from the Chamankars who earned a profit of about Rs 190 crore from Maharashtra Sadan and other PWD works, the officer said.

“Most of the money was transferred to Niche by Chamankars after getting the project; the money ultimately reached Sameer and Pankaj.”

The ACB’s case relies entirely on documentary evidence such as paper trail of fund transfers and bank transactions, he said.

The ACB in June 2015 registered two FIRs against Bhujbals. First one is about alleged irregularities in allotment of a prime plot of land at Kalina in Mumbai to a developer.

( Source – PTI )

Bhujbal case: HC asks ACB to complete probe in 2 months

Bhujbal case: HC asks ACB to complete probe in 2 months
Bhujbal case: HC asks ACB to complete probe in 2 months

Disapproving the state Anti Corruption Bureau having already taken over six months to probe allegations of money laundering and land grabbing against former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal, the Bombay High Court today directed the ACB to complete its investigation and submit a final report within two months.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah was informed by acting Advocate General Anil Singh that the ACB has registered two FIRs against NCP leader Bhujbal and his family members in the Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land grabbing case.

Another case has been registered by the Navi Mumbai police concerning a housing project scam wherein Rs 44 crore were collected from over 2,000 people for houses in a project ‘Hex World’, promoted by a realty firm owned by the Bhujbal family.

The High Court had on December 18, 2014, directed setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising ACB and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe 11 different allegations of irregularities relating to money laundering by private companies run by Bhujbal, his sons and relatives.

The direction was passed on a PIL filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seeking registration of FIR against Bhujbal.

“You (ACB) had six months to probe the allegations.

The petitioner had submitted sufficient material to start inquiry. All that you (ACB) had to do was verify the material submitted by the petitioner,” the court said.

Advocate General Singh informed the court that the 11 allegations submitted by the petitioner have been brought down to nine by the ACB.

“FIRs in three allegations have been filed. Probe into the remaining six allegations are on. A lot of material has been found during the probe involving money transactions from Singapore which includes companies across the country. The ACB in sincerely probing the case,” he said.

The court directed the ACB to submit an interim report by July 22 and a final report after completion of the investigation by August 19.

The court also noted that the Enforcement Directorate shall also go ahead with its probe expeditiously.

The ED had yesterday registered two Economic Case Information Reports (ECIR) against former PWD minister Bhujbal and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.