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PMC Bank fraud: ED arrests Viva group MD, consultant

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday morning arrested two individuals in connection with the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank scam. The arrested accused are Mehul Thakur aka Monti, the managing director of the Viva group and Madangopal Chaturvedi, the group’s consultant, said officials.

Mehul Thakur is also the son of Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) president and MLA Hirendra Thakur’s cousin. All the three BFA MLAs had pledged their support to the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

ED suspects that Thakur and Chaturvedi were in complete know of the alleged irregularities linked to Pravin Raut, former director of Guruashish Constructions Private Limited, a subsidiary of Housing Development Infrastructure Limited (HDIL). HDIL is accused of defrauding PMC Bank of over ₹6,670 crore by fraudulently obtaining nearly 70% of the bank’s overall loans.

The fresh arrests come after raids at five locations including the office of MLA Hirendra Thakur in Virar. Premises belonging to Viva Group and its associates, searched on Friday, also included registered office of the group and the residential premise of the concerned person in the group, both in Virar, one associated office of Viva group in Andheri, and two residential premises of two financial consultants of the Viva group in Juhu and Chembur. During the search, ₹73 lakh in cash and some incriminating documents were recovered, the agency has claimed.

Hitendra Thakur has reacted to ED’s action, saying, “We were prepared for ED’s visit after the action on Raut. We are cooperating with ED as we have nothing to hide. All our dealings are through cheques and are in black and white. Regarding political vendetta, I can only say, wait and watch. We are prepared to answer all their queries and are even willing to visit the ED’s office. We have nothing to hide.”

ED had begun a money laundering probe in the PMC Bank case after Mumbai police’s economic offences wing (EOW) registered a criminal case in September 2019 against HDIL, its promoters Rakesh Wadhawan and Sarang Wadhawan, former chairman Waryam Singh, former chairman and managing director Joy Thomas, and others for causing loss of thousands of crores to PMC Bank and corresponding gains to themselves. Prosecution complaint has been filed against Rakesh Wadhawan and others under PMLA.

Investigation also revealed that Wadhawans, in connivance with the Viva group, diverted more than ₹160 crore from HDIL to many companies belonging to the Viva group in the garb of commissions. These funds were apparently diverted illegally from the PMC Bank, the ED has stated on Friday.

ED has also initiated investigation in another case against Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan and others for diverting ₹200 crore sanctioned by Yes Bank to one Mack Star Marketing Pvt Ltd. This loan was siphoned off by Wadhawans by showing it for a fictitious purpose.

During the investigation under PMLA, it was revealed that Wadhawans illegally and fraudulently transferred two commercial properties of Mack Star in Kaledonia building, Andheri (East), Mumbai, valued at ₹34.36 crore to Viva Holding, a company of Viva Group. For the transfer of the said two properties, two separate sale agreements dated June 26, 2017 were prepared, wherein the sale value for both the properties was shown as 34.36 crore in total. In the said sale agreement, the purchase amount was shown to be paid vide 37 cheques by Viva Holding to Mack Star Marketing Pvt.

Investigation has revealed that these cheques were never en-cashed in the account of Mack Star, and Viva Holding never made payments for the purchase of the said property. Wadhawans had illegally transferred these properties to Viva Group in violation to the article of association of Mack Star. Further, Viva Holding never showed these properties in its balance sheets.

ED had earlier stated that the investigation under PMLA had revealed that ₹95 crore had been siphoned through HDIL by Raut, one of the accused, in active conspiracy and connivance with various persons. The sources of the funds were illegally availed loans or advances etc by HDIL from the PMC Bank. There was no document or agreement in support of these payments made to Raut. Further, as per the ledger of HDIL, the funds were given to Raut for acquiring land in Palghar area.

ED’s investigation also revealed that Raut paid ₹1.6 crore to his wife Madhuri from the proceeds of crime. Of the said money, Madhuri transferred ₹55 lakh as interest-free loan to Varsha Raut, wife of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut. The amount was further utilised for purchase of flat in Dadar (East), Mumbai, ED said.

Investigation further revealed that Varsha Raut and Madhuri Raut are partners in Avani Construction. Varsha Raut has received ₹12 lakh from this entity as overdrawn capital converted to loan, on a contribution of mere ₹5,625. The loan amount still remains outstanding, ED stated.

ED had earlier questioned Varsha Raut in this connection and has again summoned her for the second round of questioning.

The central agency had earlier attached several properties of Rakesh Wadhawan, Wadhawan Family trust and others, amounting to ₹293 crore in the PMC Bank fraud case. Jewellery worth ₹63 crore was also seized. A prosecution complaint has been filed by ED against Rakesh Wadhawan and others for money laundering.

By Hindustan Times

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