Mumbai: 8-hour marathon for Raj Thackeray

Mumbai: Keeping his much awaited date with the Enforcement Directorate, in a payment default probe, a visibly worn out Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray emerged out of the agency’s office at Ballard Pier late on Thursday evening after a marathon 8-hour session.

For once, there were no customary hysterical cheers from cadres -- a ritual associated with the maverick politician’s public appearances. Possibly, because the usual swagger was not there; instead, a weary Thackeray hurriedly walked into his car while acknowledging the large media contingent with a subdued wave of the hand.

“This is perhaps the longest sitting session Thackeray sahib has had thus far,” said a senior party functionary trying to explain Raj’s reluctance to talk to media.

“He never sits at one place for so long, even at the party office. Perhaps he badly needed rest,” he reasoned.Clad in his trade-mark crisp white kurta-pajama and maroon moccasins, Thackeray turned up at the ED’s office at round 11.30 am.

He was accompanied by his family members (wife, son, daughter, daughter-in-law and some others) and senior party functionary BalaNandgaonkar.

A few party functionaries were allowed to trail him in another vehicle as the police had restricted entry of cadres on the roads leading to the ED office; this was accomplished by putting up barricades at several places and clamping Section 144.

Raj’s family members were seen strolling on the deserted roads of the otherwise busy business district during the day, hours after they checked into the nearby Grand Hotel.

Thackeray appeared cheerful and confident as he entered the agency’s office to join the on-going money laundering probe in the IL&FS alleged payment default case involving the Kohinoor Square building at Dadar.

Though ED officials remained tight-lipped about Thackeray’s questioning, sources in the agency said that the MNS chief, a former partner in the project, was asked to record his detailed statement pertaining to his involvement in the project before he left mid-way in 2008.

“His statement revolved around his equity partnership and obligations in the venture, apart from the proceeds he earned while surrendering his shares in 2008,” sources claimed.

On Wednesday, the other partners in the project, Rajan Shirodkar and former chief minister Manohar Joshi’s son Unmesh Joshi, were quizzed for the second and third consecutive day, respectively.

While Joshi and Shirodkar have been asked to report again on Monday, no date has been fixed for Thackeray’s next visit.

Thackeray, along Shirodkar and Unmesh had floated a company, Kohinoor CTNL, to construct the skyscraper on erstwhile Kohinoor Mill No 3 at a projected cost of Rs 421 crore.

IL&FS, which had invested Rs 225 crore in the project, had made an exit in 2008 by surrendering it’s share for Rs 90 crore, thereby taking a hit of 135 crore. However, the proceeds earned by Thackeray and Shirodkar are not out in the open, as yet.

Unmesh continued to be associated with the project till 2017 before it changed hands. By then, the cumulative loans and equity default suffered by IL&FS is said to have swelled up to Rs. 860 crore.

The alleged deal came under spotlight after the ED took over a case registered by the Delhi Police Economic Offences Wing alleging cheating and forgery by the IL&FS group and its managing committee between 2010 and 2018.

The charge sheet in the case was filed last week. ED sources said that some officials of Kohinoor CTNL had been quizzed by the agency earlier.

By DEBASISH PANIGRAHI

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