Gujarat: Case against 2 ED officers handed over to CID

Gujarat: Case against two ED officers who allegedly conspired to steal seized vehicles transferred to CID

On October 19, the Surat rural police had registered an FIR against two ED officers including IRS officer

Representative image. Credit: iStock

Barely ten days after Surat district police registered an FIR against five persons including two officers of Enforcement Directorate (ED) allegedly for stealing and selling six trailers worth over Rs4 crore, which had been attached by ED in a money laundering case, the state government on Friday transferred the case to CID (crime) for investigation.

On October 19, the Surat rural police had registered an FIR against two ED officers including IRS officer of 2010 batch Pravin Solunke and his junior identified only as Bheraram, who is said to be working as Assistant Enforcement Officer. Three other accused identified as Santosh Singh, Afsar Khan and Punaji Sawekar have already been arrested and currently in judicial custody. They have been booked for conspiracy, theft, among other charges.

"The case has been transferred to CID (crime) for investigation as it involves multiple agencies. CID is equipped to handle such cases," Director General of Police Ashish Bhatia told DH while confirming the development. 

The case came to light on October 16, when a team of Surat rural police seized six trailers at a toll plaza. The police are said to have stopped them on suspicion and later the drivers failed to produce proper documents. The drivers and cleaners informed police that they were employed by a firm identified as Mahadev Roadlines and they picked up the trailers from a parking yard. The trailers were supposed to be delivered to one Sanjay Jaiswal in neighbouring Nashik in Maharashtra. Jaiswal is suspected to the buyer of the trailers.

"We learnt that one Santosh Singh, a resident of Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, had told them to take the trailers to Nashik. We traced Singh and arrested two others Afsar Khan and Punaji Sawekar, both are residents of Mumbai. They disclosed that they were working on the instructions of two ED officers-Praveen Salunke and Bheraram," said a policeman involved in the probe.

The trailers belong to a firm Siddhi Vinayak Logistic (SVL) firm that has officers in both Mumbai and Surat. The firm and its owners are facing criminal charges for duping several banks to the tune of nearly Rs2000 crore. The CBI was investigating the firm since 2013. Based on CBI's FIR, ED officers also launched a probe under money laundering act and attached over 6000 vehicles, mostly trucks and trailers worth over Rs1,600 crore.

"We don't know for sure but we suspect that over 200 trailers were not listed in the provisional attachment done by the ED and two of accused officers knew about it. I can't share more details since the case has already been transferred to CID for investigation," said a policeman in Surat district refusing to be identified. He added that "local police were surprised with the sudden transfer."

Sources said that the FIR only mentions that seized trailers along with 200 similar vehicles were parked at the parking yard of a hotel and these road vehicles were not in the list of properties to be seized. Surat police's investigation has already revealed that one of the arrested accused Santosh had come to Surat last month introduced himself as ED officer to the security officials posted at the parking yard. A couple of days later, one of the accused ED officers Bheraram also came and broke open the wall of the yard with an earthmover to make way for the trailers. Police have obtained video footage from the phone of Santosh who sent them to accused ED officer Salunke.

"We don't know why the case was transferred to CID (Crime). We had already gathered enough evidence to nail all the suspects. There are telephone call records, videos messages obtained from the phones of the suspects that clearly lead to the two ED officers' involvement who conspired the whole scheme of things," said a senior officer in Surat.