Patra Chawl Land Scam: Sanjay Raut Detained

Patra Chawl Land Scam: Sanjay Raut Detained

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut waved his saffron scarf as he was being taken away by ED officials on his detention on Sunday in connection with the Patra Chawl land scam case.

Surrounded by party workers, Raut was detained after a team of the Enforcement Directorate raided his Mumbai residence. The Sena leader is being taken to the ED zonal office.

Raut was issued two summonses, the latest being on July 27 following which the ED took action. He had been summoned for questioning in the money laundering case linked to alleged irregularities in the redevelopment of Patra chawl and related transactions involving his wife and “associates”.

While Raut had appeared before the central agency to record his statement on July 1, he twice skipped the summonses that followed saying he was busy with the parliament session.

Raut, however, has maintained that he was not involved in any scam and the ED action against him was a result of political vendetta. He said, “They (ED) can keep me in custody as long as they want, I will prove the allegations wrong.”

Here is all you need to know about the Patra Chawl land scam case:

WHAT IS THE PATRA CHAWL REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT?

Patra Chawl or Siddharth Nagar is located in the northern Mumbai suburb of Goregaon. Guru Ashish Construction Pvt Ltd (GACPL) signed an agreement with the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) in 2007 to provide new homes to 672 tenants of the chawl, then develop flats for MHADA and sell the remaining area to private developers.

GACPL, the tenants’ society and MHADA signed a tripartite agreement for the redevelopment of the chawl but that has only been on paper. For the past 14 years, residents have been waiting to get their homes.

WHAT WENT WRONG, AND WHAT IS THE PROJECT STATUS?

According to the tripartite agreement, GACPL was to provide flats to 672 tenants of the chawl, develop flats for MHADA and sell the rest to private developers. But according to the ED, Sanjay Raut’s close associate Pravin Raut and other directors of GACPL did not build a single house for the 672 displaced tenants. They actually sold the floor space index to nine private developers for Rs 901.79 crore.

In addition, GACPL also launched a project called The Meadows and received bookings worth approximately Rs 138 crore from flat buyers.

Things went awry when tenants started complaining about the non-payment of monthly rent to them by GACPL and the delay in the project. The developer was supposed to pay them rent till the project was completed, but that was only done till 2014-15. Around the same time, it surfaced that GACPL had sold FSI to nine private developers without constructing a single rehabilitation home.

Soon after this, MHADA issued a termination notice to GACPL in January 2018 due to non-payment of rent and other irregularities. But, the nine private developers who had bought FSI from the GACPL moved the Bombay High Court, leaving the project stalled.

In 2020, the Maharashtra government appointed a one-member committee led by retired chief secretary Johnny Joseph to study and recommend solutions for the rehabilitation and rental payment to 672 tenants.

Following this in June 2021, the state cabinet approved redevelopment of the chawl once again and the government resolution was issued in July 2021. On February 22, the stalled construction work was restarted on the orders of the then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

WHAT IS THE ED’S CASE?

According to the ED, GACPL’s total proceeds of crime from these “illegal activities” amount to Rs 1,039.79 crore. The probe shows that Pravin Raut received Rs 100 crore from HDIL and “diverted” it to various accounts of “his close associates, family members, and business entities”, including Sanjay Raut’s family.

The ED also stated that in 2010, Sanjay Raut’s wife Varsha received Rs 83 lakh in criminal proceeds directly or indirectly from Pravin Raut’s wife Madhuri. Varsha used this money to purchase a Dadar apartment.

After the ED investigation was launched, Varsha transferred Rs 55 lakh to Madhuri. “During the said period, eight plots of land at Kihim beach in Alibaug were also purchased in the names of Varsha Raut and Swapna Patkar, wife of Sujit Patkar, a close associate of Sanjay Raut. In this land deal, apart from the registered value, cash payments were made to the sellers. On identification of these assets and other assets of Pravin Raut, a provisional attachment order attaching all these assets of Pravin Raut and his associates has been issued,” the ED had said, as per reports.

WHAT IS THE ED’S LATEST ACTION?

The ED has detained Raut in connection with the case. The ED conducted raids at his Mumbai residence after multiple summonses to the Sena leader. Early on Sunday, ED officials, accompanied by CRPF personnel, reached Raut’s ‘Maitri’ bungalow located in suburban Bhandup, and began the search.

The ED had earlier attached Raut’s properties in Dadar and Alibaug. While Raut had recorded his statement in the case on July 1, he skipped the next two summonses and said he will only be able to appear after August 7.

The ED wants to question him about his “business and other links” with Pravin Raut, as well as about his wife’s property deals. It is not clear whether the ED will arrest him. According to sources, ED officials are not allowing anybody in the Raut family to speak over the phone. They said documents are being sought by the team, and that the family has not been informed about the next course of action. Raut was being uncooperative during the raid at his house, sources added.

WHAT THE SHIV SENA IS SAYING?

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said the ED may arrest Raut, and alleged that the central agency’s ongoing action against him was part of a “conspiracy” to finish off the party. Thackeray addressed party leaders and workers from Thane district at his residence ‘Matoshree’.

“ED guests are at Sanjay Raut’s house. He may get arrested. What conspiracy is this? Shiv Sena gives strength to Hindus and Marathi people and hence there is a conspiracy to finish off the party,” he said, adding that people whom the Sena helped grow politically are now switching loyalty.

WHAT ARE THE STATE GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION SAYING?

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde said if Raut was innocent, he should not be afraid of the ED action. Shinde said, “Raut has declared that he has not done anything wrong. If that is so, why fear a probe? Let it happen. Why fear if you are innocent?”

The BJP in Maharashtra, meanwhile, also said Raut should not be afraid of the ED action if he has not done anything wrong. Former minister Girish Mahajan said, “Sanjay Raut is unnecessarily invoking late Balasaheb Thackeray and instigating Sena workers against the Union government. He should not be afraid of anything if he has done nothing wrong.”

Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, however, wondered why the ED repeatedly wants to investigate Raut. Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the ED conducting a search at Raut’s residence depicts a “sorry picture” of democracy and alleged that the BJP wanted to “silence” all the opposition parties.

NCP MP Supriya Sule said this issue will be raised in Parliament. “Many people got notices from the Income Tax, ED, and the Central Bureau of Investigation. Only Raut will be able to tell why the probe agency (ED) wants to investigate him repeatedly,” Pawar said.

(With PTI inputs)

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