MUMBAI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating an alleged financial partnership deal between a company promoted by former civil aviation minister and senior NCP leader Praful Patel‘s family and Iqbal Memon “Mirchi”, the late drug lord and a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim.
The probe is focused on what sources described as a legal agreement between Patel family-promoted company, Millennium Developers Pvt Ltd, and Mirchi’s family. Sources alleged the deal involved transfer to Millennium Developers of a plot Mirchi owned at a prime location opposite the Nehru Planetarium in Worli. Millennium Developers had constructed a 15-storey commercial-cum-residential building, Ceejay House, on the plot.
The ED claims are based on documents recovered during searches at 11 locations in Mumbai and Bengaluru in the past two weeks, based on which the agency recorded statements of 18 persons after seizing digital evidence, emails and documents.
One of the documents found by the agency shows Hazra Memon, wife of Iqbal Memon, as the owner of the Worli plot. The cache of the papers also included an alleged agreement, apparently duly registered, between Hazra and Millennium Developers to redevelop the plot in question. As part of the deal concluded during 2006-07, two floors on the Ceejay House was transferred to Memons in 2007 “towards beneficial interest of Mirchi in the land”.
ED sources valued the two floors, measuring 14,000 sq ft, at around Rs 200 crore. Both Praful Patel and his wife are shareholders in Millennium Developers Pvt Ltd. A source stated that the Patel family members will be called for explanation. “They will naturally be asked as to why two floors were given to Hajra Memon and about the financial transactions related with the deal if any,” said an ED source.
The probe into the alleged financial deal between the family of Patel and Mirchi is part of a widening investigation into assets the latter acquired with the fortunes he had amassed as a key figure in the D-Company. Mirchi controlled a big chunk of the drug trade that flourished in the city in the 1980s.
The probe has already led, as reported by TOI on Saturday, to arrests of British national Haroun Aleem Yusuf, who played a crucial role in web of transactions that helped Mirchi get control of high-value properties in the city, and Ranjit Singh Bindra, a builder who was crucial to the lucrative deals.
Mirchi, it is learnt, purchased a restaurant in Worli in 1985 in someone else’s name. He encroached upon a plot adjoining the restaurant and started Fisherman’s Wharf disco, which was allegedly used for his flourishing drug business. Mirchi fled from the country to avoid arrest after he was named as an accused in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai.
Mirchi had also purchased Sahil Bungalow in Worli and the ED now has papers to show that two floors there belong to Hajra Memon and her sons. The remaining floors are with a developer. Mirchi had also purchased tenancy rights of a two-storeyed building, Samander Mahal, which is located behind the high-profile Samudra Mahal building, on the names of his sister and brother-in-law. The deal for the bungalow and Samander Mahal building were carried out with the help of British national Yusuf, who is an office-bearer of Sir Mohammad Yusuf Trust. Haroun and Bindra, the builder, were arrested as part of the ED’s probe into a money-laundering complaint based on a two-decade-old case registered against Mirchi. The ED has alleged that the accused helped Mirchi launder money.
It is alleged that the trust, then led by Haroun, sold three buildings (located in close proximity of Sahil Bungalow and Ceejay House) to Mirchi in 1993. A few years later, government agencies confiscated the three buildings assuming them to be Mirchi’s properties. However, Haroun claimed the building belonged to the trust and this helped Mirchi wrest the ownership of the buildings back from government agencies in 2005. Soon thereafter, he sold the building’s redevelopment rights to Sunblink Real Estate for Rs 225 crore. It is alleged that the money generated out of this deal was routed abroad through fictitious transactions so that Mirchi could purchase a five-star hotel in the UAE in 2010.