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BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, son booked for alleged swindling of money

BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, son booked for alleged swindling of money

Mumbai: Mumbai police have registered a case against BJP leader Kirit Somaiya and his son Neil for alleged misappropriation of over Rs 57 crore funds reportedly collected to save decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant from being scrapped, an official said on Thursday.

The case against them was filed based on a complaint lodged by Baban Bhosale, a 53-year-old former Army personnel, on Wednesday evening at the Trombay police station in suburban Mankhurd, he said.

Rejecting the allegation, Kirit Somaiya told reporters on Thursday that the funds collected under the 'Save INS Vikrant' campaign were not misused, and added that he was ready to face any inquiry against him.

Commissioned in 1961, INS Vikrant, a Majestic-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy, had played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade of East Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. It was decommissioned in 1997. There was a demand to convert the warship into a museum. But in January 2014, the ship was sold through an online auction and scrapped in November that year.

The complainant said that Somaiya had started a campaign to raise funds for INS Vikrant. He said that he had given donations to Somaiya for saving the ship and the BJP leader had collected more than Rs 57 crore for the purpose. However, instead of depositing the amount to the Maharashtra Governor's Secretary office, he misappropriated the funds.

"The warship had played a key role in the 1971 war. So when efforts to save it began, I thought of donating some money for the cause," Bhosale said in his complaint.

"I had donated Rs 2,000 in 2013 under the campaign launched by Somaiya," he added.

Bhosale, along with local Shiv Sena leaders, had met the police authorities on Wednesday to lodge a complaint in the matter.

Based on the complaint, a case under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention) was registered against Kirit Somaiya, his son Neil and others, the police official said.

On Wednesday, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had also accused Kirit Somaiya of siphoning off Rs 57 crore collected from people as donations to save INS Vikrant.

The Sena leader had cited a letter obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, stating that the office of the Maharashtra Governor did not receive any funds collected by Somaiya under the campaign.

Raut had also accused Somaiya of diverting funds through PMC Bank and using the money for his own election campaign.

Speaking to reporters about the allegation against him on Thursday, Somaiya said: "From the funds collected during the 'Save INS Vikrant' campaign, not a single penny was misused. I am ready to face any kind of inquiry into the matter."

"I have given enough documents and evidence against Sanjay Raut and other Sena leaders. However, Raut never gives any such proof against me. I have not even received a copy of the FIR, which has been reportedly filed against me," the former BJP MP said.

When asked about Raut citing the letter from the Governor's office, Somaiya, however, wrapped up his interaction with reporters and left the place without addressing any further query.

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