Maharashtra minister to stay in custody till March 3, Faces probe for 'deals' with aides of gangster Dawood Ibrahim
Geetanjali Minhas | February 23, 2022 | Mumbai
In a dramatic turn of events, Maharashtra minorities affairs minister Nawab Malik was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) Wednesday, becoming the second minister of the state’s MVA government to be arrested by the central probe agency after former home minister Anil Deshmukh last year.
Malik was sent to ED custody till March 3 by the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court. He was arrested in connection with a money laundering case involving fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim and his aides. According to the ED, Malik, an NCP leader, was being questioned about the purchase of a property from one of the convicts of the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
An emergency meeting attended by senior MVA leaders was held at NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s residence. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray also met Pawar later. Pawar said that his party had anticipated this action as Malik is very ‘open’ about his views. Allies Shiv Sena and Congress said that they are united in this fight against tactics to overpower the opposition. Pawar said when he was the chief minister in the early 1990s, he too was targeted for in the same fashion. “Twenty-five years have passed since then. People continue to be linked to the underworld, defame and troubled if they take positions against the centre or speak against misuse of central agencies,” he said. Malik is a trusted aide of Pawar and very close to him.
Last week, raids were conducted at multiple locations across Mumbai, including the residence of Haseena Parkar, sister of Dawood Ibrahim. Iqbal Kaskar, the fugitive's brother, was taken into custody last week while Haseena Parkar's son Alishah Parkar was questioned by the ED on Monday. As per reports, Alishah Parkar on Monday in his statement to the ED said that Malik had dealings with his mother regarding their properties. Based on this statement, the ED initiated action on against Malik and later arrested him.
It is expected that Kaskar's close aides booked in the extortion case also could be examined and their residences in Thane were also searched. One Salim Qureshi alias Salim Fruit, who is the brother-in-law of Dawood gang’s top operative Chota Shakeel, is also under the ED scanner. He was questioned by the ED for nine hours and could be called again.
Malik's reported deal with an aide of Dawood Ibrahim, Sardar Shahvali Khan, and Haseena Parkar’s bodyguard Salim Patel is under the scanner of the ED. Leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis has alleged that property worth crores was bought at mere Rs 30 lakh by Malik from Sardar Shahvali Khan and Salim Patel. The ED officials are also looking into some other business dealings of Malik and people close to him. As per reports, the ED has primary evidence against Malik.
Today, ED officials reached Malik’s residence at around 6 am where he was questioned for an hour after which they took him to the agency’s Ballard Pier office where he was questioned till around 3 pm after which he was arrested.
Ever since the Narcotics Control Bureau arrested his son-in-law Sameer in January 2021, Malik has been engaged in a bitter battle with the central agencies. After the arrest of Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan last year, Malik has been engaged in a series of attacks against NCB and its then zonal director Sameer Wankhede. Malik has accused Wankhede of a string of serious misdemeanors, including framing innocent people in drug cases, lying about his caste while taking up his government job and obtaining a bar licence despite not being of legal age. Wankhede has been repatriated and received clean chit on caste allegations.
Malik has faced heavy backlash from the BJP for his continued onslaught and BJP leader Kirit Somaiya had earlier hinted that Malik would soon find himself in the ED’s crosshairs. The very next day the ED started conducting raids at Waqf Board properties in Maharashtra.
It is reported that the FIR which makes up the basis of the ED’s action against Iqbal as well as Malik is itself mired in controversy. In 2017, the anti-extortion cell of the Thane Police had arrested Iqbal from Mumbai charging him with extortion and criminal intimidation. Iqbal was alleged to have forcibly taken over residential flats as well as extorted money from builders, jewellers and businessman based in Thane. He was arrested by former encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma who was at the time leading the Thane anti-extortion cell (AEC).
The ED has used the same FIR filed by Sharma in 2017 to start its own investigations against Iqbal and take him into custody. The ED has also based its probe on another FIR registered by the NIA against Dawood, a wanted terrorist orchestrating terrorist activities in India.
Further, Pradeep Sharma is presently in judicial custody after being arrested by the National Investigation Agency in connection with the Antilla explosive case. Sharma is alleged to have been part of the plot which involved planting an explosive laden vehicle outside businessman Mukesh Ambani's residence and staged encounter of certain people who were to be accused of the crime. Entire plan was allegedly masterminded by Sachin Waze and Thane resident Mansukh Hiren who is alleged to have been murdered to prevent the truth from being made public.
Sharma had also contested the 2019 assembly elections in Maharashtra on a Shiv Sena ticket and is locked in bitter battle with the BJP over power. Sharma and his fellow officers at the Thane AEC are also facing several other allegations of misconduct including misuse of power to intimidate and extort civilians.
With elections to the Mumbai, Thane, Pune and other municipal corporations due in a few months, things could escalate further.
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said Malik should resign from the cabinet following his arrest. The BJP leader said if Malik doesn’t resign, the party will stage a protest. The MVA however said Malik will not resign. BJP leader Somaiya who has been doing a series of “exposes” on MVA leaders justified the arrest and targeted the chief minister saying, “The Maharashtra government ke sabhi ghotalebaj ko hisab dena padega… after Anil Deshmukh, Nawab Malik and then Anil Parab,” he said referring to his allegations that Parab who is the state transport minister violated norms while building a resort near Dapoli’s coastal belt.
NCP called it communal politics, bullying, political and selective vendetta. MVA said the ED is an extension of BJP.
NCP MP Supriya Sule said that for many days BJP was tweeting that the ED notice will come to Malik and MVA. “They directly took him to ED office without any notice. I don’t know what new type of politics they have started. It’s an insult to Maharashtra.”
NCP spokesperson Sanjay Takare said, “We will fight against the unjust arrest of Nawab Malik as he was exposing BJP+NCB+CBI+ED nexus on a daily basis. We will not be cowed down. NCP will keep exposing BJP and all central agencies.”
West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerejee reportedly called Pawar after Malik's arrest. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said, “If BJP is scared of someone, it brings agencies to defame them and send them to prison after false trials.”
Only a few days ago to Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao came to Mumbai to meet Thackeray and Pawar. Late last year, Banerjee too came here to meet Pawar. Regional parties have been discussing coming together to form a strong ‘third front’.
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