Weeks ahead of the assembly polls in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is dealing with a huge embarrassment. NCP stalwart Sharad Pawar has been named in an ECIR (equivalent to an FIR) filed by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a Rs 25,000 crore bank fraud. This has come after the Bombay High Court directed Mumbai Police EOW (Economic Offences Wing) to file an FIR in the case. Questions have been raised as to why Sharad Pawar has been named in the FIR registered by ED. Top ED sources have told Republic TV that Pawar has been named as an accused on the basis of a witness statement who has implicated the senior politician.
According to agency sources, Mumbai Police EOW recorded the statement of the witness in the FIR registered in the case. The witness has told the investigating agency how NCP chief Pawar played a key role in the scam. ED is all set to ask EOW to officially handover the statement. There is a possibility that ED might record the statement of the witness under PMLA which will make it permissible before the court.
Besides, Sharad Pawar, the ED FIR also names his nephew Ajit Pawar, Diliprao Deshmukh, Isharlal Jain, Jayant Patil, Shivaji Rao Nalvade, Anand Rao Adsul, Rajendra Shingane, Madan Patil and others. Sources say the first to be examined will be bank officials and directors/ promoters of sugar cooperatives. Thereafter, Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar will be examined by ED.
The Rs 25,000 crore scam involves the allegations that the then top executives i.e. chairman, MDs, directors, CEOs, managerial staff of Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSC) and office bearers and directors of Shakhar Karkhanas (cooperative sugar factories), Soot Girnis and other processing units were given loans in a fraudulent manner by MSC bank. It has been alleged that in the process of loan sanctions, several illegalities were committed.
As per the probe agency, loans were provided to cooperative bank sugar factories by the officials of the MSC bank who have connections with the owners of sugar factories. In the process, several irregularities in the sanctioning of loans came into the light, only with purpose of extending benefits to the directors of the lending bank, for personal gains thereby defrauding in cheating the bank and its shareholders.
It has been also alleged that loans were sanctioned to cooperative sugar factories, despite they having a weak financial and negative net worth. Further, no collateral was taken in many cases and loans were allegedly extended on the basis of fraudulent and dishonest presentation to the bank. Additional working facilities were also extended to a certain few CSF without having any prudent reasons.
The ED claims that due to the alleged mismanagement and underutilisation of capacity, increasing overhead expenditure, the cooperative sugar factories became sick and were sold after the decision taken by the board of directors at a price much below the reserve price to avail wrongful gain to the purchaser. It has been alleged that the purchasers had personal or political links to the board of directors and the consent of borrowing units were not taken before undertaking such sale.