Noting that the Enforcement Directorate has made ”remarkable progress” in the probe of a money laundering case involving Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, a special court in Mumbai on Thursday extended his ED custody till August 8.
During arguments seeking his further remand, the ED told the court that a fresh money trail had come to light.
Raut, a Rajya Sabha member, was found to be the beneficiary of Rs 1.17 crore of proceeds of crime in addition of Rs 1.06 crore that had come to light earlier, it claimed.
Raut was arrested on August 1 in connection with the alleged financial irregularities in the redevelopment of the Patra Chawl (row tenement) in suburban Goregaon.
He was produced before M G Deshpande, special judge for Prevention of Money Laundering Act cases, at the end of his initial ED remand.
The central agency, represented by special public prosecutor Hiten Venegaokar, sought his further custody for eight days, saying the ED has unearthed a new trail of money.
The documents seized during the probe showed that the purchase of properties at Alibag by Raut involved substantial cash transactions, it said.
The details of the persons mentioned in these documents were being investigated and they have been summoned to join the probe, the prosecutor said.
After his arrest, probe revealed that Raut used Rs 1.17 crore of the proceeds of crime for Alibag properties in addition to the Rs 1.06 crore that had come to light earlier, the ED said.
As much as Rs 1.08 crore were found in the bank account of Raut's wife Varsha, the probe agency claimed.
The ED has summoned Varsha Raut for questioning, and she is expected to be confronted with her husband in connection with the case.
The central agency also claimed in the court that Sanjay Raut gave evasive replies during questioning.
The investigation of the case involving Rs 1,039.79 crore of proceeds of crime is at a crucial stage, the agency said.
Advocate Manoj Mohite, appearing for Raut, opposed the remand plea, saying that the matter has been investigated for long.
No progress has been made in the case in the last three days, and the probe is politically motivated, he claimed.
After hearing the arguments, the court said that considering the fact that "some more amounts have been revealed", "remarkable progress" has been made in the investigation.
In PMLA cases, the ED has to investigate the source of dirty money and how it was inserted in the financial system, and also it has to investigate the process of proceeds being separated from their illegal source, the judge noted.
Facts revealed in the previous remand require further investigation by summons and confrontation and it can be done "if custody is granted till August 8," the judge said.
As per the ED, 47 acres of land at Patra Chawl belongs to Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) and there were 672 tenants living in the tenement on the plot.
Guru Ashish Constructions obtained permission for the redevelopment of the plot with additional Floor Space Index (FSI), but no actual redevelopment took place to date.
The tenants were thus left high and dry.
Pravin Raut, already arrested in the case, is one of the directors of the firm. The ED had claimed that he was a frontman for Sanjay Raut.
During the hearing, when the court asked Sanjay Raut if he had any complaint against the ED, he said the room where he has been kept has no windows and ventilation.
Venegaokar said Raut was kept in an AC room, but the Sena MP said he cannot use air conditioning due to health reasons.
The ED then assured the court that he would be kept in a room with proper ventilation.
Sanjay Raut, 60, 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 as "false".