The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested two of its contractual staffers for allegedly providing case-related information/ documents, in lieu of bribes, to the close associate of a key accused in its money laundering probe related to Pune’s Seva Vikas Co-operative Bank. The ED also arrested Bablu Sonkar, a close associate of the bank’s ex-chairman Amar Mulchandani.
The accused ED contractual staffers – Vishal Kudekar and Yogesh Waghule – are accused of handing over copies of a few case-related papers, including witness statements recorded in the bank case, agency sources said.
Two arrested staffers were on Friday remanded to ED’s custody
The two arrested staffers were on Friday remanded to ED’s custody till Tuesday after being produced before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court.
It is alleged that Sonkar had befriended Kudekar and Waghule and subsequently paid ₹13,000 for help, in what is being seen as an alleged attempt to influence/ weaken the probe, sources said. “The arrests will serve as a deterrent for such conduct in future,” an agency source said. Sources said that the agency’s other private staffers have been alerted to stay vigilant against anyone attempting to approach them to influence them.
Sonkar was tasked by the Mulchandani family to threaten the witnesses
An ED official said that during the probe it was observed that Sonkar was tasked by the Mulchandani family to threaten the witnesses and to pass on bribe amounts to one data entry operator and one contingent staff working in the ED office in lieu of sensitive information. He said the contractual staffers have admitted they were passing sensitive information to him.
Seeking the custody of the staffers, prosecutor Kavita Patil told the court that Kudekar gave ₹2,500 received from Sonkar to Waghule for providing documents. The ED called Sonkar an alleged “handyman” of Mulchandani and others.
Mulchandani had allegedly headed a committee that sanctioned loans to an educational trust without assessing its creditworthiness and ability to repay. The trust defaulted on the loan payment, which resulted in loss to the bank. The Pune-based trust had taken loans amounting to over ₹11 crore by mortgaging their already sold properties as collateral.
As part of its PMLA probe related to the bank, the ED had in January conducted searches at 10 premises – allegedly linked to three beneficiaries in Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune. Later, on a complaint by the ED, Mulchandani and five of his family members were arrested by the Pune police for alleged obstruction in search operation. Mulchandani was found hiding inside a room. They were later remanded to judicial custody.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)