Mumbai: In a major development, the enquiry team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday issued summons to former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, to record his statement in connection with the corruption charges levelled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. The move comes a day after the agency had summoned two personal assistants of Deshmukh, Kundan Shinde and Sanjeev Palande, for questioning.
“We have issued summons to Anil Deshmukh in connection with ongoing enquiry and his statement will be recorded on April 14,” confirmed a CBI official.
On Monday, the CBI team once again questioned Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjay Patil in connection with the matter, sources said.
Singh, in his letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray last month, had claimed that Sachin Vaze, who was heading the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Crime Branch of the Mumbai police, had been called by Deshmukh, to his official residence Dnyaneshwari several times in the last few months and repeatedly instructed to assist in collection of funds for the home minister.
In and around mid-February and thereafter, the then home minister had called Vaze to his official residence. At that time, one or two staff members of the home minister, including his personal secretary, Palande, were also present. The home minister conveyed to Vaze that the latter had a target to collect Rs 100 crore a month. To achieve the aforesaid target, the home minister told Vaze that there were around 1,750 bars, restaurants and other establishments in Mumbai and if a sum of Rs. 2-3 lakh was collected from each of them, a monthly collection of Rs. 40-50 crore was achievable. The rest of the amount could be collected from other sources, the home minister had said, according to the letter.
Deshmukh had denied all the allegations made by Singh.
Following an order of the Bombay High Court last Monday, the CBI, on the following day registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) to probe the allegations against Deshmukh.
The CBI team had earlier recorded the statements of Param Bir Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Enforcement) Raju Bhujbal, ACP Sanjay Patil and Vaze, in connection with the allegations.
The probe team had also recorded the statement of Advocate Jaishri Patil, who had also approached the court seeking a probe into Singh’s allegations. The HC had ordered the CBI probe against Deshmukh on a criminal writ petition filed by Advocate Patil. The court had ordered the CBI to conduct an enquiry into the matter and submit a report within 15 days.
The agency had also recorded statements of a Kandivli bar owner and two drivers of Vaze.
Meanwhile, the ruling Nationalist Congress Party is still reeling from the setback after Bombay High Court ordered a preliminary CBI probe into the charges against Deshmukh. The party is worried about the media trial of not just Deshmukh, but also the state government, in which the NCP is a key ruling partner.
Further, the NCP admits that the BJP will spare no opportunity to further step up its attack, painting the former as a party which encourages corruption. The Sharad Pawar-led party is also worried that the BJP’s moves will further dent the image of the NCP and by extension, that of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. “Clearly, the BJP will make efforts to build a negative perception of the NCP as it had done ahead of the 2014 assembly elections by repeatedly raking up the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam,” a senior NCP minister noted.
A party legislator claimed that the BJP had succeeded in its plan to take up corruption issues, the Antilia bomb scare case, Mansukh Hiran death case, the alleged nexus between suspended police officer Sachin Vaze and the Shiv Sena and Deshmukh and also the purported transcript claiming a police transfer racket. “There is a feeling among NCP legislators that the party has failed to strongly counter BJP charges. Instead of going on the offensive, the NCP got defensive, which the BJP seized on, to further embarrass us,” he noted.
Another concern for the NCP is that if the high court asks CBI to go for a comprehensive probe, then Deshmukh will be in a bigger soup.