Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik, on Thursday, appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a case involving alleged misappropriations in a contract bagged by Tops Group with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
Sarnaik was questioned by ED over the contact and his alleged links with Amit Chandole, 46, who has been arrested in the case and termed as his "confidante" by the agency.
Post questioning, Sarnaik told the media that it is his responsibility to answer questions posed by ED. “ED asked me some questions related to my profession, politics and others. I had said clearly that ED is a big organisation tracking corruption and black money stashed abroad. ED was launched to teach lessons to such people. Hence, I believe it is my responsibility to answer all their questions as a people’s representative,” he said, adding, “I answered these questions. I don’t know if they are satisfied with the answers or not. All the ED officers asked me questions in a playful environment. The questions were about my family, profession and politics and every question was answered.”
The Supreme Court (SC) had asked ED to not take any coercive action against Sarnaik and his family in a recent interim order. Sarnaik and his son Vihang were issued multiple summons in the case. Vihang, an active member of the Yuva Sena, Shiv Sena's youth wing, was taken to the ED office from the family residence after the ED conducted searches on the premises linked to the family last month. Sarnaik, who was out of town then, was in quarantine and had communicated the same to the agency.
ED, referring to the statements recorded in the case, had earlier told the court that “it appears that Tops Group obtained a contract from MMRDA in collusion with Sarnaik through illegal means by a well thought out strategy. The aim of these illegal maneuvers was to get additional inadmissible benefits by inflating the bills”. The ED had earlier told the court that Chandole used to collect the said profits on behalf of Sarnaik. The funds mostly used to be delivered in cash; and that one Miss Latika Randive used to maintain the records for the same and she used to coordinate with Chandole.
According to ED, the statement of Chandole has been recorded, wherein he stated that he came into contact with Rahul Nanda, promoter and chairman of the group through Sarnaik, who is his close friend. The ED had earlier told the court that Chandole, in his statement, said that there was a contract of Tops Group with MMRDA in which he was sharing 50% of the profit arising out of the contract. The contract was providing security to MMRDA lands and that there was no return agreement regarding the sharing of 50% profit and it was oral based on trust only. The payment regarding 50% profit share was made to him in cash, which used to be given by Niraj Bijlani, who is the ex-CEO of Tops Group. Chandole added that he also used to get payments in NEFT and that the cash received from Tops Group used to be utilised towards household expenses.