The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday filed an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and registered a money laundering case against Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and several former directors of Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank in connection with a Rs 25,000-crore loan scam.
This pumped life in the otherwise listless opposition in Maharashtra as Sharad Pawar decided suo moto to visit the Enforcement Directorate office on Friday in order to turn around his depleting fortunes. Several other opposition leaders such as Rahul Gandhi, BJP-ally Shiv Sena too seemed to rally behind the NCP supremo as the state elections are less than a month away.
Ahead of Sharad Pawar’s visit to the ED office on Friday, section 144 was imposed in several areas of the finance capital to ensure that law and order is maintained and the situation does not slide into chaos. But the ED informed the NCP supremo that his presence at their office is not required as of now and he will be intimated the need for him to appear at their office as and when needed. Amidst a lot of political drama, Pawar cancelled his visit to the ED office.
The Maharashtra State Co-operative bank scam, in which the ED has named Sharad Pawar, relates to the several loans that were granted to cooperative sugar factories (CSFs) in connivance with then senior officials of the co-operative bank with the purpose of siphoning off money, causing a huge loss to the bank.
The ED asserted that the complaint of whistleblower Surinder Arora has mentioned that sanction of dubious loans was made under the implicit directions of Sharad Pawar, who was controlling the cooperative sector in Maharashtra. The ED will focusing its investigation on the money trail, diversion of funds and final beneficiaries of the bank scam.
The ED took cognisance of the Mumbai police’s EOW’s FIR against the accused in the MSCB scam and lodged the ECIR against them in the money laundering case. A few days ago Mumbai Police had filed an FIR after the Bombay High Court instructed its Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) against NCP leader Ajit Pawar and 70 others in Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam based on “credible evidence”.
According to the investigation carried out by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), and a charge sheet filed by a quasi-judicial enquiry commission under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies (MCS) Act, Pawar and other accused, including several directors of the bank were squarely responsible for the loss. It stated that because of their decisions, actions and inactions, massive losses were incurred to the bank. Ajit Pawar had served as deputy chief minister of the state from November 10, 2010, to September 26, 2014.
An audit report by NABARD revealed flagrant violations of several banking laws and RBI norms by the accused in the allotment of loans to sugar factories and spinning mills and the ensuing default on repayment and recovery of such loans. During that time, Ajit Pawar was the director of the bank. However, despite damning scrutiny reports, no FIR was lodged. It was only after a local activist, Surinder Arora filed a complaint with the EOW in 2015 and went to the high court that the police took cognisance of the underlying scam.
According to the probe agency, there were several irregularities in the granting of loans, carried out with the sole purpose of extending benefits to the directors of the lending bank, thereby defrauding and cheating the bank and its shareholders. Besides Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar, the ED has also filed an ECIR against Diliprao Deshmukh, Isharlal Jain, Jayant Patil, Shivaji Rao, Anand Rao Adsul, Rajendra Shingane and Madan Patil and many others.
Many top executives and managerial staff of the bank are alleged to have conspired with office-bearers and directors of Sakhar Karkhanas (cooperative sugar factories) and Soot Girnis to give out loans in a “fraudulent” manner. The loans were sanctioned to the factories in spite of their weak financials and negative net-worth, and whose owners had purported connections with the bank officials. It is also alleged that collateral were not taken in several cases and additional working facilities were also extended to some factories without justifiable reasons.