MUMBAI: Former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh has sought a fresh date for appearance before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) which had summoned him for questioning on Saturday in a money laundering case related to an alleged multi-crore bribery-cum-extortion racket that led to his resignation in April, officials said.
The 71-year-old Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader was asked to depose before the investigating officer at the agency office in Ballard Estate here by 11 am, they said. A team of Deshmukh’s lawyers visited the ED office and sought a fresh date for appearance, officials said, adding that the agency is expected to accept his request.
The central agency had arrested his personal secretary Sanjeev Palande and personal assistant Kundan Shinde late last night after it carried out raids against them and Deshmukh in Mumbai and Nagpur. The aides were brought to the ED office for questioning following the searches and arrested subsequently.
They will be produced before a special court for cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in Mumbai on Saturday where the ED will seek their remand for custodial interrogation, officials said.
The ED case against Deshmukh and others was made out after the CBI first carried out a preliminary inquiry followed by a regular case being filed on the orders of the Bombay High Court. The court had asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into the allegations of bribery made against Deshmukh by former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Deshmukh, who had resigned from his post in April following the allegations, has denied any wrongdoing.
The senior IPS officer was shunted out from his post after investigators revealed the role of assistant police inspector Sachin Waze in the stationing of an explosive-laden SUV near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s Mumbai residence that triggered a terror scare. Waze has since been dismissed from service.
In his letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after he was removed from the police commissioner’s post, Singh had alleged that Deshmukh had asked Waze to extort over Rs 100 crore a month from bars and restaurants in Mumbai.
According to the ED, about 10 bar owners in Mumbai recorded statements before it alleging that they had paid about Rs 4 crore “bribe” in cash in a three-month period to be handed over to Deshmukh through police officials.
Deshmukh was the home minister in the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra headed by Thackeray. In his letter, Singh also alleged that Palande was present when Deshmukh had asked Waze to extort money.
Palande and Shinde had been questioned by the CBI in the past. The role of the two in the operation of certain shell firms is being looked into by the ED.
The CBI booked Deshmukh and others under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections related to criminal conspiracy and the section of the Prevention of Corruption Act for “attempt to obtain undue advantage for improper and dishonest performance of public duty”.