Money laundering probe: ED questions Raj Thackeray for over 8 hours

MNS chief Raj Thackeray at the ED office in Mumbai on Thursday. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirshekar)

MAHARASHTRA NAVNIRMAN Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray was questioned for over eight hours by Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday at its south Mumbai office in connection to a money laundering case pertaining to IL&FS group s loan equity investment of over Rs 850 crore in a company called Kohinoor CTNL, of which Thackeray had been a partner till 2009.

The Mumbai Police had stepped up security in parts of the city and also imposed Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of five or more persons) of CrPC outside the ED office to ensure that no protests broke out in the city. Several MNS leaders were also detained early morning, including former party corporator Sandeep Deshpande, who was picked up by the Shivaji Park police.

MNS supporters had earlier planned to hold statewide protests and gather outside the ED office during Thackeray s questioning. The plan was, however, called off after Thackeray made an appeal to his supporters to remain calm.

Thackeray s entire family, including his wife, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and sister, along with senior party leaders, accompanied the MNS chief from his home in Dadar to the ED office. He entered the ED office alone at 11.30 am and left around 8 pm. After reaching his residence in Dadar, Thackeray told his supporters: They can undertake as many inquiries as possible. They will not be able to suppress my voice.

Raj Thackeray reaches the ED office on Thursday. (Express Photo: Ganesh Shirshekar)

The agency had sent a notice, dated August 16, to Thackeray, asking him to present himself before ED Assistant Director Rana Banerjee on August 22. The ED is at present investigating the role of IL&FS officials for sanctioning loans without ensuring adequate collateral security, which has caused losses to the company.

In 2005, Thackeray, his business partner in Matoshree Infrastructure, Rajan Shirodkar, and Unmesh Joshi, son of former Maharashtra CM Manohar Joshi and the owner of Kohinoor Group, had purchased a 4.8-acre mill land auctioned by National Textile Corporation for Rs 421 crore.

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS), through its subsidiary Consolidated Toll Network India (CTNL), had acted as syndication agency for the Rs 421-crore deal. The consortium, called Kohinoor-CTNL, was planning to build a commercial skyscraper called Kohinoor Central in Dadar.

However, after a real estate slump, Thackeray reportedly had exited from the consortium by selling his shares at a profit of Rs 62 crore in 2009. The IL&FS, too, had exited the consortium but subsequently advanced loans of up to Rs 860 crore to Kohinoor-CTNL, which the company could not repay. The precarious financial condition of the company had also led to Unmesh Joshi the only remaining partner invested in the deal to lose control of Kohinoor-CTNL, which was taken over by another company.

Sources said the ED s questions to Thackeray revolved around the status of his investments in Matoshree Infrastructure, why he exited from the consortium and the financial benefits that he received after selling his stake.

Entire Thackeray family behind MNS chief: Sena

Mumbai: SHIV SENA MP Sanjay Raut said that the entire Thackeray family is behind MNS chief Raj Thackeray, who appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday in connection with a money laundering probe.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has already said it yesterday that nothing will come out of the ED inquiry. We also have the same trust. As Sena chief has already extended his support, the entire Thackeray family is behind MNS chief, Raut told mediapersons.

He added: Though we are opponents in politics, we are together during tough times. We keep aside our differences during tough times. This is the teaching of Shiv Sena patriarch Balasaheb Thackeray.

Uddhav on Wednesday had said he doesn t think anything will come out of the probe. So, I feel we should wait for one or two days, he had said.

Raut, however, defended CBI s action against the Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram, who was arrested on Wednesday night in the INX Media money laundering case. There is ample evidence against

Chidambaram and his son was already arrested in the same case, said Raut.

Opposition leaders also rallied behind Raj Thackeray, claiming he was being victimised for speaking out against the government. The ED probe is an attempt to politically pressurise opponents. This is an attempt to muzzle the voice of anyone who speaks out against this government, NCP MP Supriya Sule said.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti claimed Thackeray was being targeted for raising the issue of EVM tampering. The government has been affected by his EVM campaign. They are harassing him for raising his voice, he added.

A section of activists, however, said it was pertinent to inquire from where leaders like Thackeray had managed to acquire their wealth. He should have been investigated earlier. The timing of this inquiry is, however wrong…

However, it is equally pertinent to know his source of income and how he has managed to accumulate his wealth, social activist Anjali Damania said. ENS