Protection clan

48DevendraFadnavis Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Jaykumar Rawal.

Devendra Fadnavis shields minister from allegations of bank fraud

  • "Rawal along with his cousins and other relatives borrowed heavily from the bank without following due procedures and without providing proper collateral securities" - Hemant Deshmukh, former NCP minister

  • "The chief minister has become a single-window clean chit department for his corrupt ministers. His attempts at rubbishing our allegation and evidence are weak" - Narayan Rane, Congress leader

It has been raining allegations against ministers in the Maharashtra government in the monsoon session of the legislative assembly. It began with the Congress levelling corruption charges against 17 ministers. Along with its ally—Nationalist Congress Party, the Congress disrupted proceedings in the assembly as well as in the legislative council, demanding a judicial inquiry. Finally, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis intervened and dismissed the allegations. “The chief minister has become a single-window clean chit department for his corrupt ministers,” said Congress leader Narayan Rane. “His attempts at rubbishing our allegation and evidence are weak. We will go to court if the government does not set up a probe.”

Jaykumar Rawal, perhaps, tops the opposition's list of 'tainted' ministers; he was recently appointed tourism minister. Elected from Dondaicha in Dhule district, the BJP leader has been accused of mismanagement of the Dadasaheb Rawal Cooperative Bank Ltd, where he was one of the board directors. “Rawal’s starch factory was facing huge financial crunch during 2003-2004, and he along with his cousins and other relatives borrowed heavily from the bank without following due procedures and without providing proper collateral securities,” said former NCP minister Hemant Deshmukh, who was MLA from Dondaicha. The bad loans totalled Rs 28 crore, he said, owing to which the bank was on the verge of bankruptcy.

The irregularity became public knowledge when depositors could not get their money back, and complained to the cooperative department and the district administration. “The defaulters had not even paid the due interest on their loan amounts,” said Deshmukh. “It was all a mess.” Audit reports for three years, starting from 2003-04, also blamed the board of directors for flouting rules and for disbursing loans to friends and families without proper security. Eventually, the Reserve Bank of India cancelled the bank's licence.

Armed with the audit reports, a few depositors tried to file a police complaint, but to no avail. Sharad Patil, a depositor, then filed a petition in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court in 2007, requesting it to direct the police to file the complaint. And thus, a complaint was filed at the Dondaicha police station. “After this, Rawal’s sister and cousin repaid their loans and asked the court to quash the police complaint. But the court refused to do so,” said Deshmukh.

The Dhule deputy superintendent of police wrote to the director general's office in Mumbai to transfer the investigation to the CID. “The DG office obviously refused to transfer the investigation,” said Deshmukh. “It was all to delay and derail the investigation.” THE WEEK has a copy of the letter sent by the DG office to the Dhule superintendent of police. The depositors again approached the High Court to expedite the investigation. The court directed the police to form a Special Investigation Team and to complete the investigation in a time-bound manner. The SIT was to submit its findings to the superintendent of police in a fixed timeframe.

49theletterwritten Paper trail: A copy of the letter written by the six accused to the chief minister; a copy of the probe transfer order.

In a letter dated August 21, 2015, the SIT requested the Dhule superintendent of police to provide it with eight police officers, 55 policemen, five lady police officers, two riot control police teams, one quick response team and ten vehicles at 9am on August 23 to arrest 56 people in the case. The letter mentioned that “two of the 56 accused are sitting MLAs.” One was Rawal, and the other was Vijaykumar Gavit, the BJP MLA from Nandurbar.

On August 20, 2015, six accused wrote to Fadnavis alleging political vendetta and requesting him to transfer the investigation. THE WEEK has a copy of this letter, with a note from the chief minister directing the additional chief secretary of the home department to immediately transfer the investigation to the CID. The home department issued the transfer order on August 24. “Meanwhile, the CM's office called the SP office in Dhule, asking it not to proceed with the arrests as the investigation agency had been changed,” said Deshmukh. “This is unprecedented. How can a CM, who is also the home minister, change the investigation agency on the request of the accused? This is unethical and illegal.”

Fadnavis, in his reply to the allegations in the assembly, defended Rawal saying that a case filed in the matter had been withdrawn by the complainant. But Deshmukh said that it was a PIL filed by a Yogesh Shinde of Dhule, seeking cancellation of change in the investigation agency. “The court had said that the agency had been changed two months before the PIL was filed and the CID will prosecute the accused,” said Deshmukh. The withdrawal of a PIL does not mean a clean chit for Rawal, he pointed out. Fadnavis took Deshmukh’s name thrice in his reply and said the bank fraud allegation was political vendetta. But Deshmukh said: “The RBI does not take my orders. The court does not function according to my wishes and auditors do not audit banks on my instructions. How can the CM call it political vendetta?” He has sent a defamation notice to the chief minister, asking for an unconditional apology. “The CM said the CID has filed a chargesheet against 24 accused, but concealed the fact that Rawal is named as the 25th accused, yet to be investigated.” The petition filed by the depositors is scheduled for hearing this month.

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