mid-day exclusive pictures: Sneak peek inside Chhagan Bhujbal's Rs 100-crore bungalow
The bungalow in Nashik has 25 rooms, a huge swimming pool, a tennis court, a full-sized gym, antique items, expensive paintings and furniture. It is one of the 25 properties under the ACB's scanner
What's former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal's most ostentatious asset? The 'Bhujbal Palace', worth a mind-boggling Rs 100 crore, on the Mumbai-Agra road in Nashik.
Chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal
mid-day brings you the first glimpse of what lies inside the palace. The bungalow is one of the 25 properties to have come under the Anti-Corruption Bureau's (ACB) scanner last year following investigations into Bhujbal's assets.
Sources in agencies probing Bhujbal's cases said the palace has been built on the 46,500-sq ft Bhujbal Farms in Nashik and has 25 rooms, a huge swimming pool, a tennis court and a full-sized gym. The valuation of the property — at nearly R100 crore — is a far cry from the R22-crore that Bhujbal had listed as the total value of his assets in his election affidavit.
An ACB source said, "This palace of Bhujbal had many more antiques, expensive paintings and furniture. When he got the wind of the ACB coming his way, the minister is suspected to have shifted his expensive interiors somewhere else."
Bhujbal Palace has been built on the 46,500-sq ft Bhujbal Farms in Nashik and has 25 rooms, a huge swimming pool, a tennis court and a full-sized gym
A former close aide of Bhujbal, who had access to this bungalow, said the palace was the former minister's best kept secret. None of his party members or friends — with the exception of close aides and family members — has access to it. "There is an 8-ft-high wall around the palace and that's why the bungalow was noticed by the people passing by. Also, there was tight security at the gate; no one was allowed to enter the bungalow till approval came from none other than the saheb himself."
Built over two years, the structure has the most expensive architecture and furniture in town. The ground floor has a grand hall, a library, a kitchen, a temple room and a huge tulsi vrindavan. There is an open space at the centre of the palace to let the sun in.
The modular kitchen — again, ridiculously lavish — has integrated designs to accommodate a refrigerator, and a cooking gas stove and an oven designed with the most expensive marble. The flooring consists of expensive Italian marble, and the windows and doors are made of high quality wood.
Bathed in luxury: The bungalow has an expansive tulsi garden, a huge swimming pool and 25 rooms. Visitors had to get ex-minister Chhagan Bhujbal's approval for entry
The palace, in the words of another close aide of Bhujbal, gets bathed in 'beautiful lights' at sunset. "Each tree in the lawn lights up with different colours, giving it the most surreal look," he added.
May be part of DA case
During simultaneous raids on the properties of Bhujbal across Maharashtra last June — which revealed that he owned 17 flats, six bungalows and a 1.8-hectare farmhouse — the police had shot a video of all amassed properties.
Bhujbal was named an accused in two FIRs registered by the ACB. While one was registered in connection with alleged misconduct in awarding the contract for construction of a central library in Kalina, the other was on a joint contract for the construction of a new Maharashtra Sadan building in New Delhi, a state guesthouse in Malabar Hill and a new building for the RTO in Andheri.
A source said that visuals of the Nashik bungalow have not been made part of the chargesheet, but it may be included in the disproportionate assets (DA) case investigators are planning to lodge against Bhujbal. The DA case is highly dependent on the Enforcement Directorate's investigation.
> Bhujbal was arrested by ED officials under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on March 14 in connection with his alleged involvement in various scams, worth R840 crore, including the high-profile Delhi Maharashtra Sadan scam.
ED investigators believe that Bhujbal and his relatives accepted cash for awarding projects to the contractors, and then channelled the kickbacks via various companies owned by them into their group companies. Bhujbal's nephew, Sameer, was arrested by the ED under the PMLA on February 1. Both are in judicial custody.
> On June 17, 2015, the ED had filed two FIRs under the PMLA against Bhujbal, his son and nephew for money-laundering based on the Mumbai police's FIRs on the Maharashtra Sadan scam and the Kalina land grab case. The FIRs were lodged after the ACB searched over 20 properties of Bhujbal as part of its investigations into alleged irregularities in the awarding of the contract of over Rs 100 crore for three projects in 2006, when Bhujbal was the deputy CM and the PWD minister.
> ED sources said since Bhujbal was the PWD minister at the time the alleged Maharashtra Sadan scam took shape, he was well aware of the misappropriations and without his directions, it could not have been possible. The contract, which was given to M/s Chamankar Developers, included construction of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi and a new RTO building in Andheri.
> ED officials claimed that there were misappropriations of around R840 crore. The agency has already attaches properties worth R114 crore.