Mumbai, Feb 23 (PTI) Maharashtra’s Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik was taken in custody by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to the activities of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim, his aides and the Mumbai underworld, the second high-profile NCP leader to be arrested by the agency within four months.
Malik, who was questioned by the ED here for six hours, was taken for a routine health check-up following his arrest and produced in a court which remanded him in the agency’s custody till March 3.
The development stirred a political storm in the state with the opposition BJP demanding his sacking, but Malik’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and its allies Congress and Shiv Sena came out in his defence and ruled out his resignation.
The 62-year-old NCP leader was taken into custody shortly before 3 PM at the ED office in south Mumbai’s Ballard Estate area. He was brought there by the agency at around 8 AM. His party and NCP leaders said he was taken by ED officials from his residence around 6 AM.
It is a second setback for Uddhav Thackeray-led NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena government as its then Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had to quit in April last year after the high court ordered a probe into extortion allegations against him by former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh.
Deshmukh was arrested by the ED on November 2 and continues to remain in judicial custody since then in Arthur Road jail.
Malik had over the last few months made a number of personal and service-related allegations of wrongdoings against former Mumbai NCB zonal director Sameer Wankhede, who has denied them.
These charges came soon after the NCB conducted raids at a cruise in October last year and arrested 20 people including actor Shah Rukh Khan’s Aryan Khan.
During the hearing in the PMLA court on Wednesday, Malik told the judge that he had been forcibly brought here from home as against the set precedence of issuing summons and questioning.
“After the court hearing, Malik was brought to the ED office in Ballard Estate around 9 PM. The minister will have to spend this night at the ED office,” an official said.
The ED contended that Malik was allegedly involved in terror funding and had connections with underworld don and global terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, a charge brushed aside by the ruling National Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar who said invoking Dawood was a convenient way to defame rivals.
The former union minister cited that 25 years ago his name was also associated with the underworld don when he was the chief minister and history is repeating itself.
Malik raised a clenched fist, smiled and waved towards the waiting media personnel before he was taken away for a medical check-up by agency officials in a vehicle escorted by CRPF personnel and local police.
He told the media from inside the vehicle: “We will fight and we will win. Will expose all.” Officials said his statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and he was arrested under the same provisions as he was “evasive” in his replies.
Malik’s alleged links to some property deals with those convicted for the Mumbai blasts are said to be under the radar of the federal probe agency and hence his questioning was necessitated.
Pawar said his party had anticipated such action against its leader Malik as he “speaks openly”.
The Shiv Sena and Congress, which share power with the NCP as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra, also threw their weight behind Malik, saying they need to unitedly fight against the tactics to silence political opponents.
The BJP, however, said the ED action should not be called “vendetta politics” and if leaders of the ruling parties feel there is any misuse of power, they can move court to seek justice and demanded his resignation.
Rejecting the BJP’s demand, Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal said there was no question of taking the resignation of Malik since he has not committed anything wrong and nothing has been proved yet.
Condemning Malik’s arrest, Bhujbal said his party colleague is being targeted as he openly speaks against the Centre for “misuse of power”.
Malik’s office said in a tweet: “Today morning the ED had come to @nawabmalikncp saheb’s residence. They accompanied saheb in his vehicle to the ED office. Advocate Amir Malik, Saheb’s son has accompanied saheb along with.” “Na darenge na jhukenge! (won’t be afraid, won’t bow down) Be ready for 2024!”, it said in another tweet, with the hashtag we stand with Nawab Malik.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut told reporters that Malik was taken away by the ED from his home.
“…I think this is a challenge to the Maharashtra government…They (central agencies) are free to probe…old issues are being dug out but you should remember that after 2024 you too will be probed,” he said.
After Malik’s allegations, the NCB headquarters in Delhi, soon after, took over at least six investigations being conducted by its Mumbai zone and transferred them to a special investigation team (SIT) based in Delhi. Also as a vigilance probe was ordered into the role of Wankhede and his team after charges of extortion were made against them in Cordelia cruise case.
Malik’s son-in-law Sameer Khan was also arrested in a drugs case by the Narcotics Control Bureau’s Mumbai unit last year.
This ED action comes after the registration of a new case and raids conducted by it on February 15 in Mumbai in connection with the operations of the underworld including alleged illegal property deals and hawala transactions linked to Dawood Ibrahim’s aides.
The searches were conducted at 10 locations, including premises linked to 1993 Mumbai blasts mastermind Dawood Ibrahim’s late sister Haseena Parkar, brother Iqbal Kaskar and Salim Qureshi alias Salim Fruit, brother-in-law of gangster Chhota Shakeel.
Kaskar, who was already in jail, has been arrested by the agency last week. It also questioned Salim Qureshi and Parkar’s son.
The ED case is based on an FIR filed recently by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against Dawood Ibrahim and others apart from its independent intelligence.
The NIA had filed its criminal complaint under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). PTI TEAM NES AVI SP SKL RT RT RT RT
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Source: The Print