The Enforcement Directorate arrested two of its own contractual staffers along with a 'close associate' of an arrested former chairman of a Maharashtra-based cooperative bank. The investigation pertains to a money-laundering probe against Amar Mulchandani, a former chairman of the Seva Vikas Cooperative Bank. The Maharashtra Police arrested Mulchandani and five of his family members for "obstructing" an ED raid against the former on January 27 and alleged destruction of evidence.
"During the course of the investigation, it was observed that a person was frequently lurking around the ED office premises (in Mumbai). He was intercepted and it was found that he was Bablu Sonkar (an employee of Amar Mulchandani) and that he was tasked by the Mulchandani family to threaten the witnesses and pass on bribe amounts to a data-entry operator and a contingent staff working in the ED office in lieu of sensitive information," the federal agency said in a statement. The amounts "paid" have been recovered, it added.
"Incriminating" documents have been recovered from the possession of Sonkar and the contractual staff of the ED have admitted that they were passing sensitive information to him, the agency said. Hence, they have been arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The money-laundering probe against Mulchandani and others stems from multiple FIRs registered by the Pune Police on the basis of complaints from the bank and an audit conducted by the registrar of cooperative societies, which pointed to "large-scale" fraud and misappropriation of public funds causing a loss of Rs 429 crore to the Seva Vikas Cooperative Bank.
"The cooperative bank was being run like a family proprietorship without following any prudent financial norms and loans were being sanctioned without any viable security and without ascertaining the credit-worthiness of the applicants in return for massive kickbacks. "More than 92 per cent of the loan accounts turned NPA and now, the bank has gone bankrupt," the ED said.
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