Rajat Sharma

Nawab Malik’s case: Crime or politics?

akb fullIn an action that could cause turmoil in Maharashtra politics, the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday arrested senior NCP leader and minister Nawab Malik on money laundering charge in connection with a property belonging to Dawood Ibrahim’s sister, and produced him before PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court. The court sent him to ED’s custody till March 3.

Within minutes, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar called a high-level meeting of all NCP ministers and leaders at his home Silver Oak in Mumbai, and later went to meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to chart a course of action.

Nawab Malik is the second NCP minister to be arrested, after Anil Deshmukh was arrested by ED on money laundering charge. Pawar said, Malik’s arrest was an example of “gross abuse of power for settling political scores”, and that invoking underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s name was convenient to damage one’s reputation. “They take the name of Dawood, if a Muslim activist is involved…When I was chief minister 25 years ago, similar allegations were made against me.”

In its remand application, the ED has alleged that Nawab Malik funded the terror network of Dawood Ibrahim through his sister Hasina Parker, and that the acquisition of her property at throwaway prices by Malik falls under the definition of “proceeds of crime”. In the ED application, Nawab Malik was named as the key conspirator and “beneficiary of the entire charade”.

The ruling Maharashtra Maha Aghadi (mega alliance) of Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP denounced the arrest and alleged that the Centre was trying to crush the opposition. Sharad Pawar had a brief telephonic talk with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, during which the Trinamool Congress supremo expressed her solidarity with NCP.

The Shiv Sena went to the extent of warning state BJP to be prepared for a retaliatory action. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut alleged that the BJP was now involved in back stabbing, like Afzal Khan did to the great Marathi ruler Shivaji Maharaj. “We shall fight, we will win, and Ravana and Kansa will be killed, this is Hindutva”, he added.

At the meeting of NCP leaders, all of them were unanimous about not seeking the resignation of Nawab Malik. The NCP has decided to fight the case both in court and in public. Nawab Malik alleged that his arrest was sudden, and that he was picked up from his home without any summons or warrant. The ED team had reached the minister’s residence in Kurla at five in the morning, and took him to ED office in Ballard Estate, where he was put under arrest after questioning, at around 2.45 pm.

ED sources rejected the allegations that the arrest was a result of “political vendetta”. These sources said, the arrest was done after a thorough probe, in which documentary evidence was found about illicit financial transactions involving Nawab Malik and other accused. ”For us, arrest is an exception, and not the rule, as far as the ED is concerned”, a senior ED official said.

What is the PMLA case relating to Nawab Malik all about?

While probing the purchase of a Kurla property by Nawab Malik, the ED found that Rs 55 lakh was paid to Dawood’s sister Hasina Parker for a three acre of land during the period 1999-2003. Out of Rs 55 lakh, Rs 5 lakh was paid by cheque and the remaining amount in cash. The land belonged to one Munira Plumber, and it was acquired by Hasina Parker through a forged power of attorney, which gave her the rights to sell the land to her driver and bodyguard Salim Patel.

In its remand application, the ED said, “the active support of Nawab Malik and connivance for acquisition of portion of land by Hasina Parker through Salim Patel, was nothing but a successful attempt for financially strengthening the terror network of Dawood Ibrahim in India. By paying consideration for the illegally occupied share of Hasina Parker, Nawab Malik aided the D-company financially.”

The ED further told the court, “For usurping this property, members of D-gang and Nawab Malik connived together and executed several legal documents to put a façade of genuinity (sic) over this criminal act. During the investigation, various documents have been collected by the Directorate.”

Before the court, ED counsel and Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh said, our case is that they did not deal with the actual owner of the property to purchase it. They dealt with Hasina Parker and used a limited power of attorney issued by the owner illegally…If you look at it from any angle, it is a clear case of money laundering.”

Nawab Malik’s counsel Amit Desai told the court that ED is making the allegation of terror funding after 20 years. Desai said, “ In 2022, the original owner (Munira Plumber) is giving a statement for something that happened 20 years ago saying she doesn’t know and she was in fear.”

When Nawab Malik was taken to J J Hospital for medical tests, after his arrest, he told reporters, “Main daroonga nahin, ladhoonga aur jeetoonga” (I will not be cowed down, I shall fight and win). NCP supporters staged protest outside ED office, and shouted anti-ED slogans. BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said, several more ministers will now go to jail, now that a nexus between politicians and underworld network has been established.

Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule said, “BJP leaders had been predicting action against Nawab Malik on Twitter since the last few days, this arrest of a minister without prior notice is an insult to Maharashtra”.

One interesting part is that NCP leader and minister Chhagan Bhujbal is on bail in the Maharashtra Sadan scam and money laundering case, after spending time in jail for two years. When Bhujbal was arrested, Shiv Sena was an ally of BJP, and had welcomed his arrest. Shiv Sena had then issued a statement saying, “the wheel of Time has turned fully, and Chhagan Bhujbal is facing the consequences of his act”. But, on Wednesday, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut described Nawab Malik’s arrest as “murder of democracy”. He even threatened that action will be taken against BJP leaders in retaliation.

There are two ways to look at Nawab Malik’s case dispassionately.

One, merits of the case, in which crores worth property was bought at throwaway price, that there was a deal with Dawood’s sister Hasina Parker and her driver and bodyguard Salim Patel, Nawab Malik has admitted that he bought the property from Sardar Wali Khan., Nawab Malik cannot say that he did not know Sardar Wali Khan was declared convict by court in Mumbai serial blasts case, Nawab Malik cannot say that he does not know Dawood’s sister, hence, a case against him has been made out.

Two, the timing of arrest. It is being alleged that Nawab Malik was arrested because he was giving statements against the Centre recently, it is also being alleged there are many people in Mumbai who have similarly bought crores worth land at throwaway prices, but Nawab Malik was singled out for action? And, that too on charges levelled by BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis last year? Those who speak about politics, avoid speaking on the merits of this case. That is why, I think, this can cause more bitterness in Maharashtra politics.

Nawab Malik is a close associate of Sharad Pawar, who is a master in the game of politics. Mamata Banerjee has spoken to him, and Pawar may soon start uniting all non-BJP parties on a single platform. There appears to be few possibilities of the bitterness melting down, because Shiv Sena and NCP leaders are already in action-reaction mode. If there is retaliation, it will be harmful for democracy.

I feel, that the merits of the case must be kept in mind and it should not be politicized from both sides. But the chances are slim. Pawar’s grandson and NCP MLA Rohit Pawar has already alleged that Nawab Malik was arrested with an eye on UP assembly polls and the upcoming BMC election.

One may wonder why the arrest of a Maharashtra leader can cause repercussions in UP politics. For those who may not know, I can mention that Nawab Malik hails from Balrampur, UP. Since he is a Muslim, the opposition may take up his issue.

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