States

Ajit Pawar denies links with firm under ED scanner

Ajit Pawar  

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar on Friday denied any connection with a company linked to him and his wife which is under the Enforcement Directorate (ED) scanner in connection with the multi-crore Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam.

On Thursday, the ED attached assets worth over ₹65 crore of the Satara-based Jarandeshwar cooperative sugar factory, which was run by one of Mr. Pawar’s relatives, as part of its probe into the MSCB affair.

The agency has alleged that Jarandeshwar Sahkari Sakhar Karkhana was purchased by a firm called Guru Commodity Services Private Limited and then immediately leased to a firm named Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills Private Limited, whose majority shareholder is said to be another company called Sparkling Soil. Sparkling Spoil is said to be linked to Mr. Pawar and his wife Sunetra, who is believed to be a major shareholder of this firm.

“There have been several probes in the past into this affair [MSCB] by agencies such as the State CID, the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Economic Offences Wing, but nothing came of them… everyone knows what kind of politics is going on in the country currently. But, there are places where justice can be sought and the mill management will try and secure it there,” said Mr. Pawar, commenting on the ED action.

He further said he had no idea why Guru Commodity Services was facing an ED probe and clarified that he had no association with it in any manner.

“This sugar factory [Jarandeshwar] was among 14 mills which were sold after they failed to repay loans to MSC Bank. The Bombay High Court had asked the bank to give them a year and then put them up for sale if they could not clear the outstanding dues within that time period. The MSCB then floated a tender to which 12-15 companies responded and as the bid of Guru Commodity Services [of ₹65.75 crore] was the highest, the bank sold the mill to that company,” he said, adding that as per his knowledge, no ‘sick’ sugar mill had fetched that high a price.

Mr. Pawar said that entrepreneur Hanmant Gaikwad of the BVG Group and one of his directors had later floated the Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills Private Limited and leased the mill from Guru Commodity Services, but that they later pulled out after suffering losses.

“It was then that one of my relatives, Rajendra Ghadge, took the company on lease and started running it, but he, too, incurred losses for some years…the new management decided to expand the business to avoid further losses and approached banks for loans to the tune of ₹300-₹400 crore,” Mr. Pawar said, stressing that the mill was today in a good condition precisely because of this business expansion move and that it was repaying loans on time.

Reacting to the development, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, whose party is in alliance with the NCP in the State, said that the misuse of the ED was well known to all by now and that the tripartite MVA government would not topple as a result of such investigations.

The ED action comes barely days after BJP State chief Chandrakant Patil wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, urging for a CBI probe into Mr. Pawar and Sena Minister Anil Parab in connection with the Sachin Vaze case.

“The ED probe is merely the tip of the iceberg in a mega scam where various cooperative sugar factories were shown at a loss and auctioned at knockdown prices to dubious firms, who would in turn auction them again to raise loans of more than ₹200 crore. The procurement of 24 such sugar mills is on the ED radar. We are going to ask Mr. Shah for a thorough inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of crores of assets of cooperative sugar factories,” Mr. Patil said.

Senior BJP leader Raosaheb Danve said that the ED action did not mean that the BJP at the Centre was attempting to topple the MVA government in Maharashtra.

“Such investigations had taken place during the Congress-led UPA at the Centre as well, when agencies had probed Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan himself had dismissed directors of Mr. Pawar’s MSC bank. So, where does the question of the BJP attempting to destabilise the MVA in Maharashtra arise?” Mr. Danve said.


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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 3:40:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/states/ajit-pawar-denies-links-with-firm-under-ed-scanner/article35108779.ece

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