MUMBAI: Enforcement Directorate (ED) today attached a sugar mill and 290 acres of prime land worth Rs 55 crore in Maharashtra's Nashik district in connection with its money laundering probe against former PWD minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and others.
The agency issued a provisional attachment order, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), against the two assets which are owned by Bhujbal's firm Armstrong Infrastructure. The order has pegged the value of the two assets at Rs 55 crore.
The ED, official sources said, has also put prohibitory orders on the running factory, identified as Girna Sugar mill, and the land located adjacent to it.
The agency, according to sources, found in its probe that the mill was purchased by Bhujbal's firm after "gross under-valuation" at Rs 27 crore and was purchased as part of an auction conducted by the Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) in 2010.
They said "proceeds of crime" of money laundering funds generated by the former Deputy Chief Minister of the state and his family members were used to purchase these two assets.
This is the fourth attachment order issued by the agency in the case and it has already attached assets, both movable and immovable, worth Rs 280 crore earlier.
An attachment order under PMLA laws is aimed to deprive the accused from obtaining benefits of their alleged ill-gotten wealth and the accused parties can appeal against the order before the Adjudicating Authority of the said Act within 180 days.
Bhujbal, along with his ex-Member of Parliament nephew Samir have been arrested in the case by the ED earlier and they are at present in jail.
The agency has filed two FIRs against Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and Samir and others under the provisions of PMLA, based on Mumbai Polices' ACB FIRs, to probe alleged irregularities in the construction of Delhi-based state guest house Maharashtra Sadan and the Kalina land grabbing case.
The Bombay High Court, in December, 2014, had constituted a Special Investigation Team comprising the ED and the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to conduct the inquiry against the politician and others.
The ACB complaint names Pankaj and Samir and they had been booked under IPC Sections related to cheating, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and relevant provisions of Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act.
The agency in a statement said "illegal gratification and bribe money collected by Chhagan Bhujbal was apparently used by way of share application money by Ms Parvesh Constructions Pvt Ltd and Ms Armstrong Energy Pvt Ltd.
"These funds were subsequently laundered and channeled to Ms Armstrong Infrastructure Pvt Ltd and thereafter placed in the property which is Girna Sugar Mill, situated at Nashik, to mask its origin and to portray it as untainted."
It said the mill and land attached today was "acquired by Ms Armstrong Infrastructure Pvt Ltd through auction proceedings from DRT for a total acquisition cost of Rs 27,82,55,010.
"Apart from a bank loan of Rs 10 crore the remaining payment of Rs 17,82,55,010 was made from the tainted funds received from Ms Armstrong Energy Pvt Ltd and Ms Parvesh Construction Pvt Ltd, thereby rendering the said Girna Sugar Mill as a tainted asset," it said.