Over the last few days, the Enforcement Directorate has repeatedly summoned Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik for questioning as it investigates claims of misappropriations in a contract bagged by Tops Group with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). On November 24, the ED launched searches at ten properties of Pratap Sarnaik, Tops Group and its promoter Rahul Nanda and a few others in Mumbai and Thane.
Last month, the agency had arrested Amit Chandole, an alleged associate of Pratap Sarnaik, and Tops Group Managing Director M Shashidharan under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. While Pratap Sarnaik and his son Vihang had been questioned earlier in connection with the case, recent summons to the Sena lawmaker have gone unanswered. He had been summoned for the fourth time on Monday. Incidentally, Sarnaik represents the Ovala-Maijwada constituency of Thane in the Maharashtra Assembly and is also a spokesperson for his party.
The Free Press Journal's Pratik Salunke reported that the agency had asked Vihang and his sibling Purvesh to appear before them on Wednesday. The organisation had sent multiple summons in the past, but they had refrained from answering it. He was questioned by the agency over the allegations of misappropriations.
Vihang, an active member of the Yuva Sena (the Shiv Sena's youth wing), was taken to the ED office from his family residence after the organisation conducted searches on the premises linked to the family last month.
The Shiv Sena in the meantime, has dismissed the raid on the MLA's properties as "political vendetta". The case finds its origin in a complaint lodged by former Tops Group employee Ramesh Iyyer. He had alleged that in 2014, under a contract with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority for supply of 350 to 500 security guards, the security firm provided only 70 per cent of the agreed number. Some of the money paid by the MMRDA went to private accounts of the accused, he claimed.
(With inputs from agencies and Pratik Salunke)