ED attaches Rs 78 cr of assets of mill linked to Ajit Pawar

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday provisionally attached Rs. 78.38 crore worth assets of a sugar mill in Jalna, Maharashtra, under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in a case pertaining to the illegal sale of the cooperative sugar mill Jalna Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana in Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank (MSCB) scam case. According to an ED press release, the attached assets include residual plant and machinery, building structures and more than 200 acres of land of the sugar mill at village Sawargaon Hadap in Jalna district.

ED has initiated investigation under the PMLA based upon an FIR registered by Economic Offence Wing, Mumbai Police, on August 26, 2019, following an order of the Bombay High Court, read the press release. It has been alleged in the said FIR that the cooperative SSK was fraudulently sold by the then officials and directors of MSCB at throw-away prices to their relatives or private persons without following the due procedure prescribed under the SARFAESI Act.

Investigations conducted by ED officials revealed that Jalna SSK failed to repay a loan of Rs. 33.49 crore availed from MSCB and was declared an NPA in 2002. To recover its dues, MSCB took possession of the cooperative sugar mill under SARFAESI Act. Thereafter, MSCB put the mill on sale in 2012, with a reserve price of Rs. 42.18 crore. The mill was sold to Tapadia Constructions, which did not operate the SSK. After lapse of 15 months, the mill along with 235 acres of land was sold to Arjun Sugar Industries.

However, Arjun Sugar Industries was floated by former Shiv Sena MLA Arjunrao Panditrao Khotkar and others to purchase the mill only. Khotkar had been on the Board of Director of MSCB and also a director in Jalna SSK. ED investigation further revealed that around Rs.10.56 crore paid by Tapadia Construction to MSCB as initial deposit in lieu of Jalna SSK was adjustment entity introduced by conversion of cash through shell companies. Further, Rs. 31.73 crore was sourced from Arjun Sugar Industries in December 2012. Tapadia Constructions was only a proxy entity according to the ED press release.

According to the ED, NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar was also in the affairs of the sugar mill.

According ED, Jalna SSK was sold for an amount of Rs. 42.31 crore by undervaluing the assets, whereas the valuation of the assets conducted by independent valuer revealed that the value of Jalna sugar mill was around Rs. 78 crore at the time of the sale.

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