The special court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has reserved its order on a plea application filed by Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s relatives, along with other concerned parties.
PMLA judge Rahul Rokde confirmed that the decision would be declared by October 13.
The case against Mr. Bhujbal, currently serving as the Minister of Food, Civil Supplies in the Eknath Shinde-led government, stems from the Maharashtra Sadan scam, previously probed by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Mr. Bhujbal, his son Sameer, and nephew Pankaj as well as Sanjay Joshi, Tanvir Shaikh, Satyen Kesarkar, and Rajesh Dharap are accused in the case. In addition to the Bhujbal family, over 50 individuals are implicated in the case.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) case is based on the First Information Report by Maharashtra’s Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). Since the accused have been discharged in the case by the ACB, they had sought a similar relief from the special PMLA court.
They have contended before the court that since the predicate offence has concluded, the lawsuit filed against them by the ED should not continue.
Mr. Bhujbal was arrested by the ED in March 2016 over charges of lack of transparency, irregularities in the transfer of fund, and over allegations of receiving kickbacks from the firm that built the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. However, Mr. Bhujbal was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in May 2018.
However, the ED, in its charge sheet, stated that Mr. Bhujbal was the mastermind of the scam, which dates back to as early as 1998 when Mr. Bhujbal was deputy Chief Minister.
‘He had devised the entire methodology and scheme of things to defraud the State Government by conceptualizing and implementing a scheme, wherein, the Maharashtra Sadan/R.T.O. project was awarded to M/s. K.S. Chamankar Enterprises by misusing his official position. For that purpose he accepted the bribe in the form of cash and laundered the same into the purported business activities of his group. He was thus, the chief conspirator, for generation of the proceeds of crime,’ reads the ED charge sheet.
ED’s chargesheet had also stated that Mr. Bhujbal had laundered money to the tune of ₹291.71 crore, while his accomplices had laundered ₹359.30 crore each since March 2006.