The agency sought custody claiming they need time to unearth details of properties owned by Bhujbal and trace suspicious monetary transactions because the accused wasn’t cooperating
A Special PMLA COURT yesterday remanded former Member of Parliament (MP) and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s nephew Sameer Bhujbal in Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody till February 8. Sameer was arrested on Monday for his involvement in various scams, including the high-profile Maharashtra Sadan Scam in New Delhi.
Sameer Bhujbal leaving the court premises yesterday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The court granted custody to ED after it informed that Sameer was neither willing to provided details of the properties he owned nor explain the suspicious monetary transactions. ED officials claimed that during interrogation Sameer tried to pin the blame on to his accountant, when in fact, he was the primary beneficiary of the profits amassed via money laundering activities. Officials said his custody was important to unearth more details.
They alleged the Bhujbals accepted cash for awarding projects to the contractors, then channelled the kickbacks via various companies owned by them into the group companies. The agency told the court that existing and former directors of Origin Infrastructure, Niche Infrastructure, Devisha Infrastructure and Parvesh Constructions mentioned in their statements mentioned that they were mere faces for these firms, which were actually controlled by the Bhujbals. They all stated that Sameer had the last say in matters pertaining to the affairs of these companies.
To strengthen their case, seeking Sameer’s custody, Special Public Prosecutor for ED, Hiten Venegaokar, submitted documents in the court stating that though cases filed against the accused are to the tune of R840 crore (approximate), properties attached by the ED are worth only R114 crore. Hence, his custody was necessary to unearth the money trail.
The prosecution also presented a confidential file pertaining to the investigation done on various money transactions related to the scam. The file also consists statements of those who were closely associated with the accused and his companies, and his employees.
Countering prosecution’s plea for Sameer’s custody, defence lawyer Pranav Badheka told the court that his client has been cooperating with the investigators since the day he was first issued a notice by the ED. “My client communicated with the investigators and even asked them what time he should depose before them with the documents sought from him. Despite this, he was arrested,” Badheka said. He further argued that Sameer’s custodial interrogation was unnecessary because the investigators had failed to establish links between the Bhujbals and the attached properties. They even failed to prove that Sameer received the said kickbacks in the alleged scam.
After hearing both the sides, Speial PMLA Judge P R Bhavake remanded Bhujbal in ED custody till February 8.
Sameer’s arrest had came days after the Bombay High Court, on January 28, sought progress reports in the case from the Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) and the ED in four weeks. He was arrested under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). ED raided at least nine premises, including properties and offices belonging to former PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, son Pankaj, Sameer, and few others. Later, the agency filed two FIRs against the Bhujbals and others under PMLA — based on Mumbai police’s FIRs — to probe the Delhi-based Maharashtra Sadan construction scam and Kalina land grabbing case.
The other side
Speaking to reporters, Sameer said, “How did (Kirit) Somaiya know about the raids on my premises beforehand?”