The Enforcement Directorate on Friday raided the premises of a firm owned by Sharad Pawar’s grand-nephew and MLA Rohit Pawar as part of its investigation into the alleged Rs 25,000-crore Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew, Ajit Pawar, who is now part of the ruling coalition in the state, had also been named in the scam earlier.
The raids – which are part of the agency’s money-laundering investigation – were conducted on at least six premises of Baramati Agro and linked entities in Baramati, Pune, Pimpri and Aurangabad. Baramati Agro is owned by Rohit Pawar, who is also the CEO of the firm.
Sources said the Enforcement Directorate’s allegation is that Baramati Agro had taken high-value loans from the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank Scam, which either remained unpaid or the funds were diverted. The agency has also claimed that people close to Sharad Pawar were on the bank’s board of directors and they had given loans, without following proper procedure, to Baramati Agro and several other companies. These loans were allegedly not paid back.
In 2019, the Mumbai Police had registered an FIR against Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar and 70 others in the cooperative bank scam, but had filed a closure report later that year, citing lack of evidence.
The Enforcement Directorate has opposed the closure report. In July 2021, it had also seized assets of the Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills, in which Ajit Pawar was once a director, in connection with the scam.
Ajit Pawar had rebelled against his uncle Sharad Pawar last year and engineered a split in the Nationalist Congress Party with the support of senior leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal and Praful Patel. He took oath as deputy chief minister in the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government in July.
The Enforcement Directorate’s latest raids come at a time when it has summoned Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav in various cases. All three, and their parties, are members of the opposition-led INDIA bloc, which has been alleging that the BJP is misusing central agencies ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which are around three months away.