Enforcement Directorate arrests former Uttar Pradesh Minister Gayatri Prajapati; sent to 7-day custody

LUCKNOW: A special PMLA court here on Wednesday sent former Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Gayatri Prajapati to a seven-day Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody after he was arrested by the agency in a money laundering case linked to disproportionate assets, officials said.

The agency had sought at least 10 days’ custody from the court to “dig out details of funds and 59 immovable properties worth Rs 20.90 crore” allegedly amassed by Prajapati and his family members using purported proceeds of crime earned from illegal mining and other avenues.

Prajapati was booked last month by the agency in a fresh money laundering case after analysing an Uttar Pradesh Police vigilance FIR filed against him on charges of possessing alleged disproportionate assets, sources said.

A special court for hearing cases filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) sent him to ED custody for seven days, beginning Thursday, they said.

Prajapati, who held the mining portfolio in the Samajwadi Party government led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, is also accused of raping a woman and attempting to molest her minor daughter along with others.

In this case, he was arrested and sent to jail on March 15, 2017 and has been in judicial custody since then.

The ED had raided a number of his premises and those of his associates at Lucknow, Kanpur and Amethi in December last year.

The agency had then said that during the raids it seized Rs 1.42 lakh cash, demonetised currency valuing Rs 11.50 lakh, stamp papers worth Rs 5 lakh, some property-related documents and computers.

“During the search, more than 100 registries of different properties spread across Lucknow, Kanpur, Amethi, Sitapur and others were unearthed.

“In addition, allotment letters of four villas in Mumbai, valued at Rs 2.5 crore each, belonging to the family members of the former minister were also seized,” it had said in a statement.

The agency added its probe found that “after the arrest of Prajapati in March, 2017 in a rape case, his sons have clandestinely sold off some of the properties for personal gains and influencing key witnesses in the trial case against him.”

It had claimed that “cash deposits in the bank accounts of Prajapati family members and companies were found to be non-commensurate with their income tax filings”.

“It was revealed that during the period the accused (Prajapati) remained minister in the UP government his company rose exponentially in net worth which he could not explain satisfactorily during his examination,” the ED had said.

The ED added that his family members “had paid substantial tax on undisclosed income” under the Union government initiated Income Declaration Scheme (IDS) or the black money declaration scheme of 2016.

It said the probe against benami asset holders of Prajapati “revealed that they were daily wage earners from humble backgrounds and incapable of owning or acquiring the properties found during investigation”.

“Twenty-three properties ranging between Rs 3-36 lakh in the name of a single benami, and whose residence was also searched, have also been found,” the agency had said.

The ED is also probing his role in connection with the renewal of sand mining leases in Fatehpur district between 2012-2016.

It has been alleged in this case that Prajapati, “in collusion with other government officials and private persons, got the mining leases renewed without following proper process of e-tendering and thereby aiding and abetting illegal mining in the district.”