In the first action under Benami Transactions Prohibition Act, the IT Department has provisionally attached the south Mumbai building named Al-Jabriya Court. The sea-facing building in Mumbai’s Marine Drive belonging to a Kuwaiti royal family is a Rs 100 crore property. The property has also been under the Enforcement Department (ED) scanner in an alleged money laundering case against out on bail NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew Sameer over alleged irregularities in the construction of Maharashtra Sadan.
Mumbai | Income-tax Department has provisionally attached the Al-Jabriya Court building at Marine Drive under the Benami Properties Act. The building was also probed by the ED in an alleged money laundering case against NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal— ANI (@ANI) August 21, 2021
The IT department has initiated action against Aslina Agro & Horticulture Private Limited, the company associated with NCP leader’s aide Arshad Siddique, that had bought the said property from the Royal family. The IT department, however, hasn’t summoned Bhujbal or his nephew in the said matter as the present investigation focuses on the company and its directors.
Al-Jabriya Court under ED scanner in a money laundering case against NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal
For the uninitiated, the Al-Jabriya Court has also been under the ED scanner. The financial investigation agency has been probing whether the Maharashtra State Minister of Food and Civil Supply, Consumer Affairs- Chhagan Bhujbal, used money from the Maharashtra Sadan scam to purchase the sea-facing building in the name of his political aide and businessman Arshad Siddique.
Earlier, ED had found substantial evidence to show that Siddique along with Bhujbal’s nephew Sameer has travelled to Kuwait in 2013 to meet the royal family which owned the Rs 100 crore property and work out a deal. The royal family occupied only the top floor of Al-Jabriya Court while other flats were rented out. The family reportedly sold their entire rights in the building allegedly to Bhujbals. The NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal was a minister in the previous government in the state then.
The agency had initiated the probe against Aslina Agro & Horticulture Private Limited as it had evidence that it did not have adequate funds to purchase the building whose market valuation is over Rs 100 crores.
According to reports, the NCP leader’s associate had paid around Rs 22 crores to the Royal family to purchase the Al-Jabriya Court, whose market value is 100 crores. The EC is firstly probing whether the royal family had also received payment from any other source or mode. Secondly, they are investigating whether Siddique had made the payment on behalf of the NCP leader.
Meanwhile, Siddiqui, who had run into a controversy in 2005 for his alleged link with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his aide Jamiruddin Ansari alias Jumbo, has been denying the allegation of being used by Bhujbal for money laundering.
The ED got a suspicion about the Al-Jabriya Court deal when they learnt that Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew Sameer often paid visits to the Kuwaiti royal family living on the top floor of Al-Jabriya Court and had even planned to shift there before they were arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in March 2016.
Criminal charges against NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal
Here it becomes imperative to recollect that the former Deputy CM of Maharashtra, Chhagan Bhujbal was arrested for several criminal offences including criminal misconduct, conspiracy, and cheating, among others. According to reports, the Bhujbal family allegedly had conspired along with several others to divert or ‘launder’ kickbacks to a tune of Rs 870 crore, received by Chhagan Bhujbal, when he was the state Public Works Department minister. The ED claimed that part of this money was parked abroad and also routed into India through various shell companies located across the country.
Several series of raids were conducted at the properties owned by Bhujbal and his family across Maharashtra. The agency issued a provisional attachment order then, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), against the two assets which are owned by Bhujbal’s firm, which was estimated to be at Rs 55 crores. ED sent the NCP leader to jail, who spent two years there before he was released on bail in May 2018 on the condition that he will have to appear before the Enforcement Directorate for questioning whenever he is summoned.