The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday night arrested former Tops Grup managing director Marth Sasidharan in connection with their ongoing probe involving alleged misappropriations in a contract bagged by Tops Group with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
Sasidharan was on Tuesday remanded in the ED’s custody for three days till Friday. Special Public Prosecutor Kavita Patil appearing for the agency sought his custody for further investigation and to probe the diversion of funds. Sasidharan, stated to be close to Rahul Nanda, promoter and chairman of the group who is believed to be abroad.
Sasidharan is the second arrest in the 175-crore money laundering case. Earlier, the agency arrested Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik’s associate Amit Chandole who is currently under custodial interrogation.
According to ED, the statement of Chandole has been recorded, wherein he stated that he came into contact with Nanda through Sarnaik, who is his close friend. The ED has earlier told the court that Chandole, in his statement, said that there was a contract of Tops Group with MMRDA in which he was sharing 50% of the profit arising out of the contract.
The contract was providing security to MMRDA lands and that there was no return agreement regarding sharing of 50% profit and it was oral based on trust only. The payment regarding 50% profit share was made to him in cash, which used to be given by Niraj Bijlani, who is the ex-CEO of Tops Group. Chandole added that he also used to get payments in NEFT and that the cash received from Tops Group used to be utilised towards household expenses.
As per the complaint of former vice president of Tops Grup security Ramesh Iyer with the yellow gate police station, which is the basis of ED’s probe, it was Nanda and Sasidharan who instructed Bijlani to pay the money to Chandole. The duo allegedly asked Bijlani to give the bribe amount at a café at Mallet Bunder. From May 2017 to June 2020, a cash of Rs 90 lakh was given through Bijlani, Iyer alleged in his complaint to the Yellow-gate police station. Nanda had earlier denied allegations of fraud in the case.
The ED had called Sasidharan for questioning on Monday following which he was arrested. “Sasidharan conspired to pay the bribe amount and was the main person who carried out the transactions,” said a high-ranking officer privy to the investigation. Interestingly, Sasidharan is the complainant in the case filed by Mumbai police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) against the management of Tops Grup. The EOW has booked Iyer and others. The EOW is probing the allegations levelled by Sasidharan who is stated to be representing Nanda. The cross-complaints between Nanda and former executives of the firm pertain to financial irregularities with both parties accusing each other of frauds. The case has also turned into a political row between the ruling Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The ED has summoned Sarnaik and his son Vihang in the case who are yet to appear before the agency.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)