Praful Patel in trouble as ED pursues money trail in Mirchi deals

Praful Patel in trouble as ED pursues money trail in Mirchi deals
Praful Patel

New Delhi/Mumbai: After unearthing details of the dubious land deals between former Union minister Praful Patel and D-company aide late Iqbal Mirchi, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials are now pursuing their money trail to ascertain whether offshore accounts were used to launder money and purchase Ceejay House building in Mumbai's upmarket Worli area.

The ED documents reveal that Millennium Developers, a company promoted by Praful Patel and his wife Varsha, constructed a 15-storey building on a plot allegedly owned by Iqbal Mirchi, an aide of India's most wanted fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, who runs an international crime syndicate having deep roots in Mumbai and Dubai.

Though the former Civil Aviation minister denies any links with any underworld gang in the controversial land deal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is raking it up ahead of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra.

Initial investigations by the ED indicate that the proceeds of the land deal were laundered by Mirchi's aide Haroun Yusuf to buy a five-star hotel in Dubai.

Yusuf, chairman of a dubious charity Trust, which owned Mirchi's several properties in prime Mumbai locations, was arrested along with a real estate agent Ranjit Singh Bindra by the ED on charges of facilitating the land deals and transferring huge funds through hawala to Dubai.

During interrogation, Yusuf has provided the ED vital leads on the money trail connecting the 2006-07 Ceejay House deal in Mumbai with the purchase of the five-star hotel in Dubai.

The Dubai connection, if corroborated by the ED, can spell more trouble for Patel, who already seems to be in the eye of the storm after the mainstream media, particularly a few leading English news channels, highlighted the Ceejay House deal.

The ED, which is probing a money laundering case, has already found an alleged agreement between Mirchi's wife and Millennium Developers for the development of a property in Mumbai. In the sale deed, a copy of which is with IANS, Patel has signed as co-owner of the property.

According to the ED sources, the probe agency is trying to find out how Patel signed the deal while being a Union minister with family members of Mirchi in 2007 when the drug lord was wanted under the MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) charges.

According to the ED sources, Mirchi and his family members beneficially own several benami properties in Mumbai. Two of these properties located in Mumbai's Worli were sold to Sunblink Realtors Private Limited and Millennium Developers Private Limited.

"However, in 2007 Millennium Developers transferred the third and fourth floor of the house, measuring 14,000 square feet, to Mirchi's family towards beneficial interest of Mirchi in the land," he said.

The source added the ED has got some important clues during the questioning of Yusuf and Ranjeet Singh Bindra, who allegedly helped in changing the ownership of the properties.

He said Bindra acted as a broker for the land deal while Yusuf transferred the money to a trust and facilitated the deal. The agency found that Yusuf had become a British national in 2004 and thus played a crucial role in the illegal land deals that were carried out by Bindra for a brokerage of around Rs 30 crore.

According to the ED, in 2010 three buildings - Sea View, Marium Lodge and Rabia Mansion - were sold to a firm for Rs 225 crore, out of which Mirchi allegedly received the majority share. The purchase of these three properties by Mirchi were allegedly made from the proceeds of crime.

The source said that the ED is trying to figure out the money trail whether it was routed through shell firms or through hawala channels.

Other than Ceejay House, the ED has identified a six-acre bungalow in Maharashtra's Khandala, which is registered in the name of White Water Limited but which actually belongs to Mirchi's two sons.

It has also identified Sahil Bunglow in Worli, Roshan Talkies in Byculla, three shops in Crawford Market of Mumbai, Meenaz Hotel at Juhu, Samandar Mahal 'A' in South Mumbai and a bungalow in Panchgani, which are currently in possession of Mirchi's immediate family members and relatives. According to the ED, the total value of the properties is more than Rs 500 crore. The ED has also identified 25 properties of Mirchi in the UK.

ED summons Praful Patel

The ED has summoned senior NCP leader Praful Patel in connection with its money laundering probe. The officers said Patel, a former Union minister in the UPA regime, has been asked to depose in Mumbai on October 18.

He has already been questioned by the ED in an another money laundering case linked to the aviation scam.

Mere speculation, says Patel

Meanwhile, Praful Patel on Tuesday rubbished as "mere speculation" reports about his alleged deal in Mumbai with gangster Iqbal Mirchi.

"Documents may have been leaked to media. Obviously, you are in possession of some papers, which may have never been brought to my attention," Patel told reporters here.

"My family owns Millennium. No one else is a partner," Patel said.

"There is not even a single paisa worth property transaction between the Patel family and Hajra Memon," the NCP leader said.

"Everything is with the court receiver of the Bombay High Court. We are nowhere directly looking after the property and neither are we directly in charge of it," Patel said.

Asked if he saw a political motive behind the ED action in the matter, Patel said, "You (media) have a better idea as some papers about which even I wasn't aware have come your way."

(With inputs from IANS and PTI)

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