NCP leader Eknath Khadse, who had received summons from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) appeared before the agency on Friday morning for the first time.
Khadse, who has been nominated by NCP to the legislative council from the Governor’s quota, was summoned in connection with the purchase of a three-acre plot on his wife’s name in Bhosari near Pune. In June 2016, Khadse, who was considered the number 2 in the Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet, resigned from his ministerial berth in the wake of charges of corruption and misuse of power.
The leader had earlier sought more time from the agency due to health concerns.
The ED’s probe is based on an FIR filed by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in April 2017 against Khadse, his wife Mandakini, son-in-law Girish Choudhary and others. A complaint was filed by Pune based businessman Hemant Gawande accusing Khadse of defrauding the public exchequer in the Bhosari land deal. As per the allegations, the land was purchased in the name of Khadse’s wife and son-in-law for Rs 3.75 crore, much lower than the estimated market price of Rs 40 crore.
The ACB case was filed acting on the orders of the Bombay High Court. In 2018, the ACB said it failed to find “definite proof” that Khadse misused his official position. Further, the Zoting Committee appointed by the former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had submitted its enquiry report to the state government. However, the Fadnavis government did not reveal its findings.
The ED will be conducting an enquiry under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) Act. The agency probe will revolve around the deal and if there are any proceeds of crime.
‘’Earlier, the ACB Pune and Nashik, the Income Tax Department and the Justice Dinkar Zoting Commission had conducted inquiries in this matter. I had submitted all papers and extended my cooperation during probes,’’ Khadse has earlier said while he was summoned. He had added that the land deal is worth Rs 5 crore as per the ready reckoner rates.
“So far, four inquiries into the Bhosari land deal, which is in my wife’s name, has been done. Now ED’s is the fifth such probe. Whenever the ED will call me, I will remain present, as it has every power to conduct a probe. I will cooperate,’’ Khadse had said.