Former aviation minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel has come under the Enforcement Directorate (ED) scanner over a 2007 property deal involving Patel, late Iqbal Mirchi and a real estate firm Millennium Developer. The property, popularly known as Ceejay House, is located in the city's upmarket Worli area.
Memon Iqbal Mohammed, aka Iqbal Mirchi, was wanted by the Mumbai police in a dozen cases of murder, attempt to murder, criminal intimidation, extortion and drug trafficking.
Confirming the development, an ED official said that the 15-storey commercial building was a joint venture between Mirchi and Millennium Developer in 2006-07. The third and fourth floors of Ceejay House, admeasuring 14,000 square feet, had been transferred to Mirchi's family by the developer in 2007 towards beneficial interest of Mirchi in the land. The promoters of Millennium are Patel and his wife. Patel was Minister of Civil Aviation when the deal took place.
The probe agency is learnt to be in possession with the deed of the property where Patel is the “co-owner”. Sources said Patel will be questioned soon in the matter.
Text messages and calls to Praful Patel remained unanswered.
According to the ED probe, Ceejay House was sold to Sunblink Realtors in 2010-11. Sunblink entered a deal in 2010 to develop a disputed property linked with Mirchi, his close confidant and Power of Attorney-holder Humayun Merchant and Joy Homes.
Apart from Ceejay House, the ED has identified 6-7 other posh properties worth Rs 500 crore during the course of its investigation. These include Samudra Mahal-A in Worli, in possession of Mirchi's brother-in-law and sister; Sahil Bungalow, owned by Mirchi's wife and son; six acres land with bungalow in Khandala in the name of Whitewater, which is owned by Mirchi's two sons. Other properties are: New Roshan Talkies in Byculla, three shops in Crawford Market, Menaz Hotel on Juhu Road and a Bungalow in Panchgani.
"Ceejay House and the Worli properties were sold to Sunblink Realtors and Millennium through dubious means and the sale proceeds have been laundered," the official cited above said.
He added that a part of the sale proceeds of these properties has been routed through fake bank accounts in Chennai. The above assets in Mumbai could not be attached under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act (SAFEMA) at the relevant point as they were benami and used dubious transactions as detected during the probe.
Mirchi, an international drug dealer and smuggler, was involved in criminal activities detrimental to the national interest. Mirchi who died in 2013, had generated a huge amount of wealth in India and abroad. In 1995, he and his family fled India and initially shifted base to Dubai. After he was declared proclaimed offender, his assets were seized under Safema but were later released.
ED has registered cases last week under PMLA and arrested two associates who are said to have worked closely with Mirchi. Haroon Yusuf and Ranjit Singh Bindra, who were running the syndicates, are in ED custody> They were allegedly conspiring with Micrhi and facilitating the illegal sale of properties.
The probe also found that Mirchi’s family owns 25 properties in the UK, funded by criminal activities in India.
ED has come across a person, Hazra Menon, who owns 16 properties in London through two companies -- Country Properties Limited, Jersey and Quay Management Limited, British Virgin Island. Six other properties are in the names of four UK-based companies -- Riqz Ltd, Topline Estates Ltd, Quay Management Waterside Ltd and Imperial Hotel Ltd in London. Three other properties are held in London in the name of Mihaj Investment Corporation Ltd. The probe agency suspects that these properties have been bought from money received illegally from the sale of Indian properties.
The ED probe further said that Mid West Hotel apartment in the UAE was bought in the name of Abdul Salem after selling three Indian properties in 2010-- Rabia Mansion, Marium Lodge and Sea View. The current value of these assets is aboout Rs 180 crore.