A week after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) questioned the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel in connection with a money laundering probe linked to the alleged illegal assets of the former aide of underworld gangster Dawood Ibrahim, late Iqbal Mirchi, the agency on Tuesday said it has arrested Humayun Merchant, who handled Mirchi’s real estate businesses.
According to ED sources Merchant was arrested under the sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 and will be produced before a Mumbai court later in the day.
Source further said that many property deals on behalf of Mirchi and his family members were found routed through Merchant, including those with Praful Patel.
On Friday, for over 12 hours, ED questioned the former Minister in connection to the case during which he revealed about the connection of the property with the family members of Mirchi and who the promoters of Millennium Developers were, whether he had ever meet Merchant and if he had travelled to London during 2006-07.
A senior ED official related to probe told IANS that the NCP leader said that he was not aware that Iqbal Memon aka Iqbal Mirchi was the same man.
The official also added that Patel in his statement to the financial probe agency has said that the deal between the Millenium Developers, controlled by him and his wife Varsha were finalised by a relative, who died a few years ago.
According to ED officials, Patel’s Millennium Developers Pvt Ltd constructed a building called Ceejay House in 2006-07 and its third and fourth floors were transferred to Iqbal Mirchi’s wife, Hazra Memon. Mirchi, a drug lord, died in 2013 and it was reported that his wife Hazra Memon entered into a property deal with the Patel family.
The land on which the tower was made is said to be owned by Iqbal Mirchi. Investigators claim the land was purchased from the proceeds of crime, money laundering, drugs trafficking, and alleged crimes of extortion.
In 2007, the third and fourth floors of the building were given to Mirchi’s family by Millennium Developers.
Earlier, Praful Patel and his party have denied any wrongdoing in the deal and said that the property papers explain that the transaction is “clean and transparent.” At a recent press conference, Praful Patel rubbished reports about his alleged deal as “mere speculation.”
The ED has unearthed deals worth Rs 225 crore related to three buildings – Sea View, Marium Lodge and Rabia Mansion – spread over 1,573 square metres in Worli area of Mumbai.
Earlier, last week the ED has arrested two accused, who are from Mumbai, who have been identified as Haroun Yusuf and Ranjeet Singh Bindra.
Bindra acted as a broker for the land deal while Yusuf transferred the money to a trust and facilitated the deal.
The agency found that Yusuf became a British national in 2004 and played a crucial role in illegal land deals between Mirchi and developers that were carried out by Bindra for brokerage of around Rs 30 crore.
The ED has so far identified several properties of Mirchi and his family members in India, United Arab Emirates and the UK, which it suspects to be brought from the proceeds of crime.