ED sleuths grill Praful Patel for 12 hours

Mumbai: Former Union Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel was grilled for a marathon 12 hours by the Enforcement Directorate on Friday in connection with a contentious property deal between a reality firm promoted by Patel and family members of the late drug kingpin Iqbal Mirchi.

Though Patel evaded questions pertaining to the grilling after emerging out of the ED office at 10.30 PM, ED sources said the questioning of the senior Nationalist Congress Party leader centred around a purported transaction between Millennium Developers Pvt Ltd, a reality firm promoted by Patel, and Asif Memon, son of Mirchi.

The ED is learnt to have got wind of the monetary exchange during an analysis of some documents which the agency had come across during searches conducted at 11 locations in Mumbai and Bangalore recently.

As per documents, sources said a few crores of rupees had been transferred from an account held by Asif, son from Mirchi’s first wife Hajra, to Millennium Developers in the past.

“He (Patel) was asked about the purpose of exchange of money from the drug lord’s kin to the reality firm,” sources said. Patel, who showed up at the agency’s Ballard Pier office at around 10.30 am, was also questioned over an alleged telephonic conversation, details of which were not revealed.

Senior ED officials refused to comment on the questioning, citing investigation confidentiality. The questioning of Patel assumes significance in the backdrop of his reported claims that there was absolutely no financial transaction between Millennium Developers and family members of Mirchi ‘at any stage.’

The ED claimed that Patel was a signatory to a deed of confirmation with Mirchi’s family members for acquisition of a plot in Worli, which earlier housed the Shreeniketan building.

After signing the deed, the 15-storeyed Ceejay House was built by Millennium Developers in 2007. As per the deed, Hajra got tenancy rights of 9,000 sq ft carpet area on the third floor of the building and another 5,000 sq ft on the fourth floor (totalling 14,000 sq ft) in Ceejay House.

The properties were transferred to the fugitive's family in 2007 as per his beneficial interest in the land. The deed of confirmation, which is under the ED lens, features the firm (Millennium) as ‘owners’, while Hazra, Junaid and Asif (a minor then), feature as other ‘co-owners’ who constituted 'attorney’, sources said.

The agency suspects that proceeds of the sales in the transaction had been laundered to Mirchi. Sources said that Patel is likely to be summoned again for further questioning.

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