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India

Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut Fifth Oppn Leader Arrested By ED In Recent Times

With the list of arrested opposition leaders increasing, the Central government has been accused of misuing the ED to serve its agenda.

Sanjay Raut
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut being taken for a medical check-up by Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials, after which he will be produced in a special court in connection with a money laundering case, in Mumbai, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Monday morning became the latest political leader to be arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. His early morning arrest over a case of money laundering linked to alleged irregularities in the redevelopment of a Mumbai ‘chawl’, made Raut the fifth leader of an opposition party to be put behind the bars by the national probe agency. With the list of arrested opposition leaders increasing, the Central government has been accused of misusing the ED to serve its agenda.

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, (PMLA) under which the ED has been conducting raids and arrests, gives the institution the authority to freeze or attach any movable or immovable property of any person under its investigation if it finds reason to believe that it is attached to a possible laundering. It also allows the ED to not disclose the ground of arrest at the time of detainment of an accused.

Raut, 60, was arrested after over six hours of questioning at the ED’s zonal office in south Mumbai’s Ballard Estate shortly after Sunday midnight. He was taken into custody at 12:05 am on Monday under the PMLA. A number of leaders of the previous Maharashtra government, led by Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena and its coalition MVA government, have been placed under the scanner of the ED.

This began even before the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which included the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, was dethroned by Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shidne who revolted which a majority of the party MLAs and joined hands with old ally BJP. Those who were arrested and are still behind bars are NCP leaders Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik.

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Deshmukh was arrested in November 2021, under the PMLA on allegations of obtaining illegal gratification from bar owners of approximately Rs 4.7 crore in cash, when he was a minister. But it doesn’t end there, the allegation is that a majority of this money was then deposited into shell companies.

Another former minister, Nawab Malik, was arrested in February 2022, in a money laundering case under PMLA allegedly linked to Dawood Ibrahim. The probe is related to a property linked to Haseena Parkar, sister of Ibrahim.

Another recent arrest by the ED was of former West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee, who has been sacked from the Cabinet and TMC following the ED probe. The ED had recovered a mountain of cash from premises linked to Chatterjee’s aide Arpita Mukherjee. During her interrogation, Mukherjee alleged the cash belonged to the former minister.

In Delhi, AAP leader and Health Minister Satyendra Jain has been behind bars since his arrest on May 30. He was arrested by the ED in connection with a money laundering case through Kolkata-based shell companies.

Earlier, Punjab’s former Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s nephew had been arrested just before the Punjab Assembly elections in February 2022. His arrest had come in a case linked to alleged sand mining and was granted bail a few months later in July.

The Supreme Court has recently, on July 27, upheld the amendments made to the PMLA which gives the governments and the ED “unbridled” powers to summon, arrest and raid. It also makes bail difficult, shifting the burden of proof of evidence on to the accused.