The Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted searches on Wednesday at seven locations, including the premises of deputy municipal commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Sangeeta Hasnale, Shiv Sena (UBT) party leader Suraj Chavan, and five private contractors in connection with the Rs 6.7 crore Covid-19 khichdi scam.
Officials of the ED searched Vaishnavi Kitchen/Sahyadri Refreshment, Parel; FNJ Enterprises, which operates Persian Darbar Hotel, 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.
What is 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 this case and in that background 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 in the multi-crore Khichdi scam.
Sujit Patkar, aged 46, is currently in judicial custody as part of an ongoing investigation into the Covid-19 jumbo centers scam. He was arrested in July of this year by the ED in connection with a money laundering case.
EOW suspects leaders helped private firm secure khichdi distribution
In the khichdi scam, Sujit Patkar allegedly received Rs 45 lakh from Sahyadri Refreshments for providing consultancy services. Additionally, Rs 53 lakh was transferred to the account of Amol Kirtikar, son of Shiv Sena UBT leader Gajanan Kirtikar and Rs 37 lakh was transferred to Suraj Chavan's account. The EOW suspects that these leaders helped the accused private firm secure the khichdi distribution contract through their political influence.
Hasnale was in planning department but allegedly without verifying the capacity of the private contractor firms,she allotted the contract to accused firm contractors.
EOW found BMC committed financial irregularities
The EOW's 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, registered under IPC sections 420, 409, 406, 34 and 120-B.
Kadam and Salunkhe were previously arrested by EOW in connection with the Lifeline Management Service - Covid-19 jumbo centres scam case. The two were later granted bail by a court.
The EOW found that the BMC committed financial irregularities in awarding the contract for distribution of ‘khichdi’ to migrants during the pandemic, The EOW found that the contractors who 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 favored 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 Rs 5.93 crore to Sahyadri Refreshments. Sahyadri Refreshment paid the bills of the other two subcontractors, totaling 3.20 crore, resulting in an illicit profit of 2.73 crore."