NCP lawmaker Rohit Pawar, grand-nephew of party boss Sharad Pawar, appeared before the Enforcement Directorate Wednesday morning in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to the alleged Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, or MSCB, scam.
In a show of strength, Mr Pawar was escorted to the central agency’s office in south Mumbai’s Ballard Estate by senior members of the Nationalist Congress Party, including Working President Supriya Sule.
Before appearing at the ED office Rohit Pawar also visited his grand-uncle at the party HQ, a few hundred metres away, and sought his blessing; a video shared by news agency ANI showed Pawar junior, in a light blue shirt and khaki trousers, touching Sharad Pawar’s feet. As he was going into the ED office Rohit Pawar, a first-time MLA from Karjat Jamkhed, said, “The officers are doing their job. Whatever documents they wanted, we have given. I will appear and whatever information they ask, I will give them.”
READ | Probe Agency Summons Sharad Pawar’s Grand-Nephew In Maharashtra Bank Scam
Speaking to reporters outside the ED office, after Pawar junior went inside, a confident Ms Sule said, “We are going to completely cooperate with all the agencies because we have nothing to hide.”
— ANI (@ANI) January 24, 2024
Ms Sule, however, also responded strongly to questions about claims by opposition parties that the ruling BJP uses central agencies like the ED, to target and harass rivals, particularly before elections.
“I cannot comment on it, I am going on data and it speaks for itself. In Parliament there was a reply given by the Government of India… that 95 per cent of cases by Income Tax Department, CBI, and ED are against people in opposition parties. I am not making this allegation… I have very little to comment.”
#WATCH | As NCP-Sharad Pawar faction leader Rohit Pawar is being questioned by ED, NCP working president Supriya Sule says “I cannot comment on it, I am going on data and it speaks for itself…In the Parliament there was a reply given by the Govt of India, that 95% cases of IT,… pic.twitter.com/KrERt7YvSq
— ANI (@ANI) January 24, 2024
Specifically, Ms Sule had been asked about reports Ajit Pawar – who is Sharad Pawar’s nephew and was a close aide till he rebelled – has been dropped from a new ED chargesheet in the MSCB case.
Ajit Pawar led a breakaway faction of the NCP in July last year, and was made a Deputy Chief Minister in a state government led by the BJP and a rebel unit of the Shiv Sena.
READ | Some “Not Ready To Retire”: Ajit Pawar Targets Uncle (Sharad Pawar) Again
The Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam relates to the alleged fraudulent disbursal of loans amounting to Rs 25,000 crore. The investigation was led by Mumbai Police’s Economic Offences Wing under a FIR registered in August 2019. A petition before the Bombay High Court alleged some sugar mills had defaulted on these loans and, on default, were auctioned to office-bearers and politicians.
The initial case was closed in 2020 but the ED filed an intervention petition and began its inquiry.
READ | Probe Agency Raids Company Owned By Sharad Pawar’s Grand-Nephew
On January 5, the agency searched the premises of Baramati Agro, a company owned by Rohit Pawar, and linked entities in Pune and other places. Last week Sharad Pawar hit out at the centre, accusing it of using the ED to “terrorise and silence political opponents”.
With input from agencies
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