Senior NCP leader and former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal was on Monday arrested by the Enforcement Directorate(ED) here after 10 hours of questioning in connection with its probe in a money laundering case registered against him and others. According to an ED official, the arrest of the former PWD minister was effected under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after he allegedly refused to cooperate during questioning.
The agency also recorded his statement in the case. The official said Bhujbal was questioned for 10 hours before he was arrested and he will be produced before a court tomorrow. The agency has filed two FIRs against Bhujbal, his son and nephew and others under the provisions of PMLA, based on Mumbai Police FIRs, to probe the Delhi-based Maharashtra Sadan construction scam and the Kalina land grabbing case.
The senior NCP leader, accompanied by MLC Jitendra Awhad, earlier arrived at the ED office at Ballard Pier in South Mumbai amid tight security around 11.30 AM. Speaking to reporters before entering the ED office, Bhujbal said, "It is political vendetta...truth shall prevail. I will cooperate with the ED."
A large number of party workers who had gathered outside the ED office raised slogans even as prohibitory orders were put in place to avoid any untoward incident. The ED had registered a PMLA case involving the Bhujbals and some of their associates and has already arrested the ex-minister's nephew Samir last month in the case. Samir is currently lodged in the high security Arthur Road jail here.
"The ED had also questioned Bhujbal's son Pankaj in the same case last month. It had also brought out orders for attachment of three properties with an estimated worth of over Rs 280 crore in the case under money laundering laws. ED had twice conducted searches at nine premises, including properties and offices, belonging to the senior Bhujbal, Pankaj, Samir and few others. NCP had then described the searches as "political vendetta," spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon
The state Anti-Corruption Bureau has already filed a charge sheet against Chhagan Bhujbal, Pankaj, Sameer and 14 others in the Maharashtra Sadan scam case. The new Maharashtra Sadan was built at the cost of Rs 100 crore when Congress-NCP coalition was in power in Maharashtra. Before Bhujbal's arrival, at least 30 NCP workers were briefly taken into preventive custody outside the ED office here. Police sources said that around 125 police personnel headed by DCP Zone-I, Manoj Kumar Sharma were present at the spot even as roads leading to the office were barricaded on both sides.
"This is vendetta politics by BJP. There was no need to arrest him as he was cooperating with ED. It could have filed the charge sheet even without the arrest. This shows the mindset of the BJP regime... NCP stands firmly behind Bhujbal", NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said.
"Time and again the court reprimanded the BJP-controlled ACB to act, but it continued to go in slow mode. Finally, the ED acted on HC's direction and first arrested Sameer Bhujbal and now Chhagan Bhujbal. Please note that they have been arrested under section 19 (1) of the PMLA Act a money laundering charge and not on Maharashtra Sadan complaint filed by BJP MP Kirit Somaiya," AAP spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon said.
(All images sourced from PTI)