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Bhujbal PMLA case: ED attaches sugar mill, land worth Rs 55 cr

Bhujbal PMLA case: ED attaches sugar mill, land worth Rs 55 cr
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday attached a sugar mill and 290 acres of prime land worth Rs 55 crore in Maharashtra’s Nashik district in connection with its money-laundering probe against the state’s former Public Works minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal and others.

The agency issued a provisional attachment order, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), against the two assets that are owned by Bhujbal’s firm Armstrong Infrastructure. The order has pegged the value of the two assets at Rs 55 crore. The ED, sources said, has also put prohibitory orders on the running factory, identified as Girna Sugar mill, and the land located adjacent to it.

The agency, according to sources, found in its probe that the mill was purchased by Bhujbal’s firm after “gross under-valuation” at Rs 27 crore and was purchased as part of an auction conducted by the Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) in 2010. They said “proceeds of crime” of money-laundering funds generated by the former Deputy Chief Minister of the state and his family members were used to purchase these two assets.

This is the fourth attachment order issued by the ED in the case. Earlier, it had attached assets, both movable and immovable, worth Rs 280 crore. An attachment order under PMLA laws is aimed to deprive the accused from obtaining benefits of their alleged ill-gotten wealth and the accused parties can appeal against the order before the Adjudicating Authority of the said Act within 180 days.

Bhujbal, along with his ex-Member of Parliament nephew Samir have been arrested in the case by the ED earlier and they are at present in jail.

The agency has filed two FIRs against Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and Samir and others under provisions of the PMLA to probe alleged irregularities in the construction of Delhi-based state guesthouse Maharashtra Sadan and the Kalina land grabbing case.

The Bombay high court, in December 2014, had constituted an SIT, comprising the ED and the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to conduct the inquiry against Bhujbal and others. The ACB complaint names Pankaj and Samir and they had been booked under IPC Sections related to cheating, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and relevant provisions of the Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act.

The agency, in a statement, said: “illegal gratification and bribe money collected by Chhagan Bhujbal was apparently used by way of share application money by Ms Parvesh Constructions Pvt Ltd and Ms Armstrong Energy Pvt Ltd. These funds were subsequently laundered and channeled to Ms Armstrong Infrastructure Pvt Ltd and thereafter placed in the property which is Girna Sugar Mill, at Nashik, to mask its origin and to portray it as untainted.” 

It said the mill and land attached was “acquired by Ms Armstrong Infrastructure Pvt Ltd through auction proceedings from DRT for a total acquisition cost of Rs 27,82,55,010.
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