In yet another setback for Shiv Sena, the Enforcement Directorate has arrested Amit Chandole, a close aide of Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik in connection with a money laundering case linked to the legislator.
According to the reports, Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik’s aide Chandole was grilled by ED officials for nearly 12 hours before being placed under arrest. The ED will produce Chandole in court on Thursday to seek his custody for further investigation.
Amit Chandole, a close relative and business associate of Sarnaik, is the first arrest in a money laundering case under investigation by the ED.
Prior to the arrest of Chandole, the ED had carried out raids on the Shiv Sena MLA’s residence and offices of Tops Group. The raids were conducted to collect evidence of suspicious transactions between the Tops Group and Shiv Sena MLA from Thane, Pratap Sarnaik. Tops Group, a private security agency, is owned by Amit Chandole.
Shiv Sewn MLA raided based on a complaint to ED
The ED had registered a case based on an FIR that was filed with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police last month. The FIR, in this case, named Tops Group Security employees and its promoter Rahul Nanda among others. Nanda is also considered to be a close acquaintance of MLA Pratap Sarnaik.
In the FIR, the complainant had alleged that there were irregularities in the contract given to Tops Group for providing security guards to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). The FIR was registered on October 28 alleged that Tops Grup cheated the MMRDA to the tune of Rs 175 crore.
Following the raids, Sarnaik on Wednesday quarantined himself citing coronavirus guidelines. He has asked the ED one week’s time to join the investigation.
Sarnaik, an MLA from the Ovala-Majiwada constituency in Thane, had recently demanded that actor Kangana Ranaut be booked under sedition charges for likening Mumbai to Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir.
Pratap Sarnaik – from driving autorickshaw to being a millionaire
Back in the 1980s, Pratap Sarnaik drove an autorickshaw and was struggling to make ends meet. Subsequently, he made a fortune by the reality sector boom that swept Mumbai and the adjoining regions in recent decades. Today, Pratap Sarnaik is the chairman of Vihang Group Of Companies, a major player in the real estate industry in Thane region.
Sarnaik’s relative affluence and his growing stature in the Shiv Sena party is a recent phenomenon. According to a report, Sarnaik’s political journey did not start from Shiv Sena. He was earlier associated with Pawar’s NCP. Sarnaik first hogged the limelight in 2008 when he gifted a diamond-studded cell-phone worth a staggering Rs 15 lakhs in 2008 to his former boss, NCP’s Ajit Pawar.
But his association with the NCP came to an end over a perceived insult over the appointment of the leader of opposition in Thane Municipal Corporation. He jumped ship and joined the Shiv Sena in November 2009 and since then his political career took off at an inexorable pace, catapulting him on the path to becoming three-time MLA from Ovla-Majhiwada constituency in Thane.