Mumbai: A Mumbai court on Tuesday remanded former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh to the Enforcement Directorate’s custody till November 6 in a multi-crore money laundering case, hours after his arrest following marathon questioning.
Deshmukh (71) was arrested by the ED on late Monday night after over 12 hours of questioning here in the money laundering case linked to an alleged extortion racket in the state police establishment, an action termed as politically motivated by his party NCP, an ally in Maharashtra’s ruling coalition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
He was produced for remand before additional sessions judge P B Jadhav, who presided over the special holiday court, a little after noon.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the ED, sought 14-day custody of the NCP leader, stating his custodial interrogation was required to carry out further probe into the case, which stems from a CBI FIR, and to check the money trail.
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Deshmukh’s counsel Vikram Chaudhri and advocate Aniket Nikam, however, opposed the remand plea and argued the ED had no locus to investigate.
The Bombay High Court had only directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the allegations against Deshmukh. No one asked the ED to investigate, Chaudhri told the court.
He further informed the court that Deshmukh is a senior citizen whose shoulder is dislocated and hence, he needs constant support.
“He suffered from COVID-19 this February and is suffering from heart ailments and hypertension,” Chaudhri said.
Before producing him in the court, the prosecuting agency had taken the NCP leader to the state-run J J Hospital for a regular medical check-up.
After spending the night in the ED office in south Mumbai, Deshmukh was brought out at 10.15 am and taken to the hospital, an official said.
After the ED arrested Deshmukh under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), agency officials had claimed the senior politician was evasive during questioning.
The ED had initiated a probe against Deshmukh and his associates after the CBI filed its FIR against the NCP leader on April 21 on charges of corruption and misuse of official position.
The ED’s case is that Deshmukh, while serving as home minister, misused his official position and through now dismissed cop Sachin Waze collected Rs 4.70 crore from various bars and restaurants in Mumbai.
The money was allegedly laundered to Nagpur-based Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha, an education trust controlled by Deshmukh’s family.
Deshmukh, who resigned from the cabinet in April this year, had refuted these allegations earlier and said the agency’s whole case was based on malicious statements made by a tainted cop (Waze).
The ED has so far arrested two persons in the case – Sanjeev Palande (additional collector-rank official who was working as Deshmukh’s private secretary) and Kundan Shinde (Deshmukh’s personal assistant).
The agency last month submitted its prosecution complaint (equivalent to a charge sheet) against the duo before a special court.
The ED case against Deshmukh and others was made out after the CBI booked him in a corruption case related to allegations of at least Rs 100 crore bribery made by former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after he was removed from the police commissioner’s post in March, Singh had alleged that Deshmukh asked Waze to extort over Rs 100 crore a month from bars and restaurants in the metropolis.
Deshmukh, while denying any wrongdoing, had maintained that Singh made the allegations against him after he was removed from the post of Mumbai Police chief.
The former minister had skipped multiple summonses issued by the ED in the case, but after the Bombay High Court last week refused to quash them, he appeared before the agency on Monday.
Deshmukh’s arrest is politically motivated and aimed at maligning the image of MVA leaders, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said, while the Shiv Sena, which heads the ruling coalition, termed the ED move as “unethical”.
Hitting out at the Centre, Malik, a minister in the MVA government, said scaring leaders by abusing power should be stopped.
“The entire action (of arresting Deshmukh) is politically motivated. It is aimed at scaring the leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance),” Malik told reporters.
“Law will take its course. The truth will someday come out if you implicate people,” Malik said.
He said the Centre must come clean on Param Bir Singh.
Singh is missing and two non-bailable warrants have been issued against him in two different cases. In the past, the MVA leaders have accused the Centre’s hand behind Singh’s disappearance.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said Deshmukh was arrested by the central agency based on Singh’s allegations, and this was “very unfortunate and unethical”.
Raut said on the basis of allegations, an investigation can be carried out, but Deshmukh was arrested on the first day of inquiry by officials of the ED.
“I think it is a pre-planned strategy to harass, defame and indulge in mud-slinging of key leaders of the MVA government (in Maharashtra),” the Rajya Sabha member said.
Deshmukh’s arrest is being seen as a setback to the Uddhav Thackeray-led government, which will complete two years in office in November-end.
Last month, NCP President Sharad Pawar had accused the Centre of using its agencies to target the MVA regime.
Some leaders of Maharashtra’s ruling alliance are being probed by various Central agencies.