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Mumbai: A special court here on Monday remanded Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut to 14-day judicial custody in a money laundering case linked to alleged irregularities in the redevelopment of a Mumbai ‘chawl’.
The probe agency Enforcement Directorate argued that the release of Raut at this stage will hamper the investigation as he is a very influential person and it is feared that he may tamper with the evidence.
Raut was produced before special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court judge MG Deshpande after the expiry of his ED custody on Monday afternoon. The federal probe agency did not seek further extension of his custody.
The court allowed Raut’s plea for home food and medicines but refused to pass an order on his prayer for bedding.
The judge said as per the prison manual, jail authorities make adequate bed arrangements.
After the court order, Raut was taken to Arthur Road jail in central Mumbai, officials said.
A police vehicle carrying Raut reached the jail in the evening.
The ED, which had arrested the Sena Rajya Sabha member on August 1, said in its application in the court that during custodial interrogation, Raut did not explain his involvement in the alleged crime.
The release of the accused at this stage will hamper the investigation, the probe agency said.
“Being a very influential person, against whom allegations of threatening of the witnesses have surfaced, it is apprehended that he may tamper with the evidence and ensure the trail of proceeds of crime is completely obfuscated,” it said.
Therefore, the accused may be remanded to judicial custody in the interest of the ongoing investigation, it added.
Raut, 60, was arrested by the ED in connection with alleged financial irregularities in the redevelopment of the Patra Chawl (row tenement) in suburban Goregaon.
The ED said during a custodial interrogation that Raut did not explain his involvement which was within his exclusive knowledge, and gave evasive replies.
The investigation into the case involving proceeds of crime amounting to approximately Rs 1,039.79 crore is at a crucial stage, it said.
Further investigations are required to be carried out to unearth the entire role of the accused and the involvement of other persons to identify further proceeds of crime, the ED said.
Speaking to reporters outside the Arthur Road jail, Raut’s brother Sunil Raut, a Shiv Sena MLA, said the MP has been brought to the jail.
Sanjay Raut has been allowed home food, he said.
“We will discuss with our lawyers and decide about filing a bail application,” said Sunil Raut.
He said his brother is an honest person and the loyal sainik of Balasaheb Thackeray who would not kneel before anybody.
“He was working with Balasaheb for over 30 years and we see Balasaheb in Uddhav Thackeray, so Sanjay decided not to betray Uddhav Thackeray,” the MLA said.
The ED’s probe pertains to alleged financial irregularities in the redevelopment of the Patra Chawl and related financial transactions involving Raut’s wife and associates.
During the earlier remand hearings, the federal probe agency claimed Raut received a benefit of about Rs 2.25 crore from the proceeds of crime. The money was allegedly used for buying property at Alibaug in the neighbouring Raigad district.
As per the ED, 47 acres of land at the Patra Chawl belongs to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) and 672 tenants were living in the tenement on the plot.
The Guru Ashish Constructions obtained permission for the plot redevelopment with an additional Floor Space Index (FSI), but no actual redevelopment took place till date. The tenants were thus left high and dry, as per the probe agency.
Pravin Raut, already arrested in the case, is one of the directors of the firm.
The ED had claimed he was the front-man for Sanjay Raut.
The probe agency on Saturday questioned Sanjay Raut’s wife Varsha Raut for more than nine hours in connection with the case and recorded her statement.
Sanjay Raut is a close aide of Shiv Sena president and former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
He has denied any wrongdoing and called the ED case against him “false”.