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Top IPS officer sent on leave as absconding billionaires found

Top IPS officer sent on leave as absconding billionaires found

New Delhi: The Principal Home Secretary (Special) of Maharashtra government, senior IPS officer Amitabh Gupta, was on Friday sent on compulsory leave after it was discovered that he had purportedly signed a permission slip for the scam-hit Wadhawans to violate the COVID-19 lockdown in light of a "family emergency" and travel to their lavish farmhouse in Mahabaleshwar. The state government has now initiated a probe against Gupta.

The Wadhawans — both Kapil and Dheeraj of Dewan Housing Finance Ltd along with 20 family members — were found in their Mahabaleshwar farmhouse, where they had arrived in five cars by violating the lockdown order in place across the country in view of the COVID-19 epidemic. The entire family has been institutionally quarantined at a facility in Panchgani and a case under sections of the Disaster Management Act has been filed.

Both the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation are pursuing several cases of corruption and money laundering against the Wadhawans with the ED also investigating a Money-laundering case related to gangster Dawood Ibrahim's aide Iqbal Mirchi. According to officials in both agencies, the Wadhawans had been evading probe for weeks until they were found violating lockdown orders.

While Gupta was on duty as the Principal Home Secretary, as a senior IPS officer, his commanding ministry is the Ministry of Home Affairs under Home Minister Amit Shah.

The permission slip signed by Gupta on April 8 allowed the Wadhawans — around 25 people in all — to travel from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar. The letter said that all the people listed were close "family friends" of Gupta's and that authorities should "cooperate" with them to reach their destination. Curiously, three of the cars signed for in the permission slip were registered to a group company of RKW Developers, which itself is a subsidiary of the DHFL Group.

RKW Developers is currently being probed by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case involving three posh properties in Mumbai's Worli area, suspected to have been purchased with proceeds of crime, purportedly laundered by Dawood aide Iqbal Mirchi. RKW Developers had donated Rs 10 crore to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 while the DHFL Group had made also donations of up to Rs 19.5 crore to the ruling BJP in 2014-15 and 2016-17. With the inquiry now ordered against Gupta, it has also been reported that he was allegedly close to the Devendra Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra.

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