Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted searches at seven locations – the premises of Deputy Commissioner of the BMC, Sangeeta Hasnale, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Suraj Chavan, and five private contractors – on Wednesday in connection with the ₹6.7 crore Covid-19 ‘khichdi scam’.
The searches were carried out at: Vaishnavi Kitchen / Sahyadri Refreshment, Parel; FNJ Enterprises, which operates Persian Darbar Hotel, in Goregaon; Hasnale’s residence in Chembur; Sneha Caterers and Decorators, Mulund; Golden Star Hall and Banquet, Mulund; Fire Fighter Enterprises, Govandi; and Western India Logistics, Chembur.
The Khichdi Scam
The khichdi scam is about the illegal bagging of a contract by the accused for preparing khichdi for migrant labourers during the pandemic.
The Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police is investigating the case. The ED has registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut's close aide Sujit Patkar and six others.
Patkar, 46, is currently in judicial custody as part of an ongoing investigation into the Covid-19 jumbo centres scam. He was arrested in July by the ED in connection with a money laundering case.
According to the ED, Patkar allegedly received Rs45 lakh from Sahyadri Refreshments to provide consultancy services. Additionally, ₹53 lakh was transferred to the account of Amol Kirtikar, son of Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Gajanan Kirtikar, and ₹37 lakh to Chavan’s account. The EOW suspects that these leaders helped the accused private firm secure the khichdi distribution contract.
Hasnale was in the Planning Department when she was alleged to have allotted the contract to the private firm without assessing its capacity.
The EOW had named Patkar, Sunil alias Bala Kadam, Sahyadri Refreshment’s Rajeev Salunkhe, Force One Multi Service’s partners and employees, Sneha Caterer’s partners and other unidentified BMC officers as accused in the case, and registered the case under IPC sections 420, 409, 406, 34 and 120-B.
Kadam and Salunkhe were previously arrested by the EOW in connection with the Lifeline Management Service-Covid jumbo centres scam. The two were later granted bail by a court.
The EOW claims to have found that the BMC committed financial irregularities in awarding the contract for distribution of ‘khichdi’ to migrants during the pandemic. It said that the contractors that were given the task of making khichdi subcontracted the work to others.
According to the EOW FIR and investigation, Hasnale gave the contract to Vaishnavi Kitchen / Sahyadri Refreshments on Kadam’s application. According to the contract, each packet should have contained 300 grams of khichdi, but the packets distributed among the migrants contained only 100-200 grams. Kadam also subcontracted the work to another party.
"According to an official, BMC officials received kickbacks to award contracts to favoured parties. Vaishnavi Kitchen / Sahyadri Refreshment and Sunil, also known as Bala Kadam, were awarded the contract. However, they did not have a kitchen available to make khichdi for more than 5,000 people, so they subcontracted the work to Force One Multi Services. Force One, in turn, subcontracted the work to FNJ Enterprises Private Limited. The civic body paid ₹5.93 crore to Sahyadri Refreshments. Sahyadri paid the bills of the other two subcontractors, totalling ₹3.2 crore, resulting in an illicit profit of ₹2.73crore,” an official claimed.