Mumbai: A day after NCP leader Sameer Bhujbal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case, the former MP was on Tuesday sent to the agency's custody till 8 February by a special PMLA court in Mumbai.
"The accused has been remanded to ED custody till February 8," ordered special judge PR Bhavke.
Sameer, nephew of NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, was placed under arrest on Monday night after over six hours of questioning under the provision of PMLA at the agency's office in Ballard Pier in Mumbai after ED conducted searches on at least nine premises. The premises including properties and offices, belonging to former Maharashtra PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, son Pankaj, Sameer and few others.
The agency's action invited NCP's ire which described the searches as "political vendetta" with party chief Sharad Pawar coming out in support of Bhujbals and saying that they are being targeted for political gains.
Pawar also hit out the government saying that what is being shown as (Chhagan) Bhujbal's decision, is actually the
decision of the cabinet and said that he has not seen such "blatant misuse of power" in the last 40 years.
ED counsel Hiten Venegaoankar said that Sameer did not appear before the agency in spite of three summons sent to him.
In the remand application accessed by PTI, the Enforcement Directorate said that during the course of their preliminary investigation in the case, they scrutinised and analysed several records, documents and bank statements obtained from various persons and entities.
As per the remand application, Sunil Naik, chartered accountant of Mumbai Educational Trust, controlled by Bhujbals
told the ED that shares of Parvesh Constructions and Armstrong Energy (firms owned and controlled by Bhujbals), were sold to dubious companies against cash at unrealistic high premiums of Rs 9,900 per share against the share value of Rs 100 each besides channeling funds to the tune of Rs 75 crore and Rs 50 crore respectively using this method.
Further it said that Sunil Jajodia, a market operator named by Naik confirmed that as instructed by Naik, he had
arranged funds in bank accounts of Parvesh Constructions and Armstrong Energy against cash.
Jajodia also told ED in a statement that he used to receive cash from MET office of Bhujbals at suburban Bandra
in Mumbai, which he kept transferring to his Kolkata-based contacts by allegedly using "hawala" services.
The remand application also said that Praveen Jain, controller of various companies, has admitted that he accepted
cash from Naik and he (Jain) in turn arranged cheque payments in banks accounts of Armstrong Energy in lieu of cash to the tune of Rs 10.50 crore.
The ED also said that Prabhakar Sogam, an office boy of Jain, confirmed that he visited the MET office a number of
times on the instructions of Jain and collected cash from there.
It also said that Kolkata-based financial consultant Sanjiv Jain has admitted to have received Rs 8 crore in cash
from Naik for arranging cheque payments in the accounts of Parvesh Constructions and Armstrong Energy in the guise of share purchase of at high premium.
The agency claimed that one Chandra Shekar Sarda, a CA, has confessed to have formed two companies Minutex Processors and Mangal Sago and arranged payments to the tune of Rs 10.24 crore and Rs 15.78 crore in the bank account of Parvesh Construction in the guise of share purchase at high premium.
The ED also said that it had conducted enquiries to ascertain the genuineness of one Hingora Finvest Pvt Ltd, the
largest shareholder of Parvesh Construction, but the firm existed only on paper.
Further, chartered accountants of Hingora, its company secretaries admitted to have verified the books of accounts
without looking into the genuineness of the records of non-existent entity against acceptance of fees.
The agency said that even other shareholding companies like Dyaneshwar Trading, Sidh Housing, were also non-existent.
The agency also said even as per the report from assistant commissioner of police, Kolkata regarding verification of antecedents of the share holding entities, certain firms could not be found at their declared addresses.
"Thus it clearly establishes that special purpose vehicle were merely created on paper with the sole intention for
layering and integrating the money syphoned," the remand application states.
It further stated that two Kolkata-based companies Shivlaxmi Exports and Novelty Trades used by the Bhujbals in
their nefarious deals turned out to be bogus.
"The fact has been confirmed by Kotak Mahindra Bank in their e-mail, who have informed that during the course of
verification of the declared addresses, they could not locate the companies," the remand copy said.
The bank also informed that Hingora Finvest does not exist at their declared office and registered address, it said.
The ED said Kotak Mahindra Bank also informed them that they could not locate many addresses of the entities
registered in Kolkata.
"All these concerns were utilised by the Bhujbals to channelise their illicit money generated through criminal
activities," it said.
The ED also said that even Union Bank had informed that no business activities were carried out at the declared addresses of some of the firms and their directors were not residing at the declared addresses.
"Thus, from the forgoing revelation based on the investigation conducted so far, it is apparent that the share
purchasing entities were bogus and used by Bhujbals to channelise and integrate the tainted funds received through
criminal activities as alleged in the FIR and these funds have been laundered in the guise of equity subscription at unreasonable high premium with the help of operators and charted accountants," the ED said in its remand copy.
The agency also said that financial scrutiny of the bank statements of various firms controlled by Bhubjals revealed that they had received huge funds from certain individuals/firms like DB Realty, Balwa Group, Kakde Infrastructure, Aakruti group and others on the basis of unregistered agreements entered in a Rs 100 stamp paper.
It also said that they had recorded the statements of Directors of Origin Infrastructure, Niche Infrastructure, Devisha Infrastructure and Parvesh Constructions.
The directors revealed that they were the directors of the firms, but Bhujbals were main controllers and actual
owners of the firm.
"All the persons have clarified that Sameer was the main person, who decided all matters pertaining to the affairs of the companies controlled by the Bhujbals and only he (Sameer) could explain the details of the financial transactions of the firms," it said.
While Sameer, in his statement recorded yesterday, told the ED that he was an active politician and he was not looking after the day-to-day affairs of the business and the sale of share at high premium were handled by Naik and he had no role to play.
Sameer also told the ED that Naik had informed him that all investing companies were genuine and till date no dividend has been paid to the any of the investors by the companies of the group and they had invested around Rs 25 crore in Indonesia for purchase of coal mines.
The ED said that when they confronted him with the statements of various individuals and asked to explain the
financial transactions, he had refused to co-operate and did not provide any details.
"He also did not provide the details of properties owned by him or explanation regarding suspicious transactions," the ED remand application said.
The agency said tried to shift the blame on his CA, when in fact he has emerged as the main controller and
beneficiary of the money laundering activities.
"From the evidence gathered so far, it is apparent that Sameer is guilty of money laundering," the ED said.
"As per the FIRs registered by ACB Mumbai and EOW Navi Mumbai, the estimated loss to the state exchequer is to the
tune of Rs 870 crore and the ED has attached properties of around Rs 114 crore. Thus, the money trail, including end use of proceeds of crime to the tune of Rs 750 crore, is yet to be identified and ascertained," the remand copy said.
The ED argued that huge amount involved in the money laundering and the specific role played by Sameer is a very
serious economic offence and has potential to impact the economic tapestry of the country, which is why his custody is required to unearth and trace the trail of syphoned funds.