Eknath Khadse seeks discharge in Pune land case; blames political vendetta for prosecution

The former BJP leader who is now with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP said there was not even a 'prima facie case' against him, and he was made a 'scapegoat'.
Last Updated : 27 June 2024, 16:48 IST

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Mumbai: Former Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse on Thursday filed a discharge application before a special court here in a money laundering case linked to a land deal in Pune district, claiming that the prosecution was the result of "political vendetta".

The former BJP leader who is now with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP said there was not even a "prima facie case" against him, and he was made a "scapegoat".

Besides the veteran leader, his wife Mandakini and co-accused Ravindra Muley also filed discharge pleas before judge R N Rokade of a special court for cases against MPs and MLAs through advocate Swapnil Ambure.

The Khadse couple was present before the court when their pleas were filed.

"...there is not even a prima-facie case which is spelt out in the complaint, which can attract the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)," Eknath Khadse's plea said.

"The respondent (Enforcement Directorate) has failed to make out a case of dishonest intention or fraudulent transaction. The prosecution is nothing but a result of political vendetta wherein the applicant has been made a scapegoat," it added.

Khadse had to step down as a senior minister in the BJP-led government in Maharashtra in 2016 after he was accused of misusing his official position to facilitate the purchase of government land in Bhosari industrial area near Pune by his wife and son-in-law Girish Chaudhary.

The Khadse family purchased the land for Rs 3.75 crore when its actual price was Rs 31.01 crore, the ED alleged.

His discharge application said there were no "proceeds of crime", nor had he benefited in any way.

The ED's case was based on a First Information Report registered by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), but the ACB later filed a closure report in the form of 'C' summary, and hence, at the time of the registration of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) by the central agency there was no valid `predicate' offence either, it said.

For the ED to probe a case under PMLA, existence of a predicate offence and "proceeds of crime" is mandatory, the plea said.

There was no material on record to indicate that he and the co-accused had entered into any criminal conspiracy, and the co-accused had purchased the property in a "distress sale", Khadse said.

As to the allegations of abuse of power, the former minister said a transaction of this nature could have been done by any person. "It was merely a sale transaction entered into by two private individuals," the application added.

The ED had sought permission for further investigation after filing the charge-sheet but failed to "gather any material so as to substantiate the allegations", it said.

The court sought response of the central agency to the discharge applications and adjourned the matter for further hearing to July 8.

The Khadse couple have never been arrested in the case.

Their son-in-law was arrested in July 2021 and spent more than two years in jail before being granted bail by the Supreme Court.

Eknath Khadse had earlier this year announced that he would be returning to the BJP. But it was not clear whether the party would take him back, and when.

His daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse was recently inducted as minister of state for youth affairs and sports in the new BJP-led government at the Centre.

Published 27 June 2024, 16:48 IST

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