CBI files case against Vaghela

UPA minister had allowed land deal at throwaway prices

CBI files case against Vaghela

The CBI filed a case against Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela on Wednesday for allowing sale of a prime property in Mumbai at “throwaway prices” during his tenure as the textiles minister in the UPA-I regime.

The sale of National Textile Corporation (NTC) land in central Mumbai's Parel area to a private company reportedly caused a loss of Rs 709 crore to the exchequer.

Vaghela, former Gujarat chief minister and present leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, walked over to the Congress from the BJP in the mid-90s following differences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Vaghela had a running feud with Modi during his stint in Gujarat, and is named along with five others, including former NTC chairman and managing direction Ramachandran Pillai, in the FIR.

Two NTC officials–R K Sharma, then director (technical), and M K Khare, then senior manager (legal)–and Kamlesh Mehta of Kolkata-based Gowani Builders, then director of Hall & Anderson Ltd, were among others who were named in the case.

Hall & Anderson Ltd is now known as Shree Madhusudan Mils Ltd. The FIR is the result of preliminary enquiry that went on for more than a year.
Sources said Vaghela entered into a conspiracy that allowed Mehta to develop 27,500 square meters of the 80,785 square meter plot.

The mill, which was originally privately owned, was declared a sick unit and nationalised under the Sick Textile Undertaking (Nationalisation) Act, 1974. “The accused entered into a criminal conspiracy and transferred the land at Mumbai owned by NTC to a Kolkata-based private firm in a wrongful manner for a total consideration of (around) Rs 29.35 crore, whereas the actual value of the land was much higher. An alleged loss of (around) Rs 709.27 crore was caused to the government exchequer," a CBI statement said.

Sources said Vaghela overruled the recommendation made by officials that NTC must give a detailed plan on the evaluation of the land before giving sanction for sale.

Vaghela termed the CBI move as “vendetta” politics. “It has been seven years of UPA-I. Why the inquiry was not initiated in these seven to 10 years (the sale of land took place in 2007-08). This is nothing but vendetta politics,” he said.

He went on to claim that as per the information at his disposal, the Vajpayee-led NDA government was planning to sell all NTC lands in Mumbai for Rs 200 crore. “NTC had a debt of Rs 1,800 crore but due to the efforts of the previous government, it earned Rs 2,000 crore through NTC land deals.”

The investigators also searched nine locations in four cities–New Delhi, Gandhinagar, Mumbai and Kolkata–soon after registering the case. Vaghela’s residence was also searched.The accused have been charged under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC and relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The search operation began early morning at Vaghela’s residence in Gandinagar and continued till about 4.30-5.00 pm.


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