Former Civil Aviation Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel.
Former Civil Aviation Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel.

Mumbai: While probing whether former union minister Praful Patel had ever met the late fugitive drug lord Iqbal Mirchi in London in connection with a purported property deal in Worli, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sleuths had allegedly come across instances of telephonic conversation between the two.

ED sources said that the conversation had been facilitated by a “common friend”, who has been identified as Farooq Patel. Praful Patel, who was questioned over the said conversation during his marathon interrogation at the ED office on Friday, is learnt to have denied having any knowledge about this talk. Following this, ED has launched a hunt to trace Farooq for a confrontation.

Though little is known about Farooq, it is learnt that he is a resident of Dongri and has long been involved in redevelopment projects in the city. He is known for his proximity to Mirchi and is said to be close to both, ‘Humayun Merchant’, a former front-man of Mirchi, and Mukhtar Patka, the late drug lord’s brother-in-law.

“Until sometime ago, Farooq was in partnership with an ex-Dawood aide in redevelopment projects. He started his own venture afterwards,” sources said adding, “He (Farooq) is well-known for his connections in the top business and political circles.”

Records of the purported conversation and an exchange of around Rs 5 crore from an account held by Asif, Mirchi’s son from Hajra, Mirchi’s first wife, to the Praful Patel-promoted Millennium Developers, had allegedly emerged during searches conducted by the ED at 11 locations in Mumbai and Bangalore, recently. The raids were in connection with a property deal allegedly entered into between Millennium Developers and Mirchi’s family members, for a 15,000sqft property at Annie Besant Road in Worli, previously known as Shreeniketan Building.

After signing a deed of confirmation, the 15-storeyed Ceejay House was built by Millennium Developers in 2007. As per the deed, Hajra got tenancy rights of 9,000 sqft carpet area on the third floor of the building and another 5,000 sqft on the fourth floor (totalling 14,000 sqft) 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 the ‘owners’, while Hajra, and her sons Junaid and Asif ( a minor then), feature as other ‘co-owners’ who constituted ‘attorney’, sources said.

The agency suspects that the proceeds of the sales in the transaction had been laundered to Mirchi.

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