Properties worth Rs 255 crore have been attached in connection with a money laundering probe linked to a case of alleged agricultural loan fraud and duping of farmers in Maharashtra, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said on Wednesday.
"Assets worth Rs 255 crore of Gangakhed Sugar & Energy Limited (GSEL), Yogeswari Hatcheries and Gangakhed Solar Power Limited have been provisionally attached under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)," the central agency said in a statement.
"The case pertains to fraudulent availing of agricultural loans in the name of innocent and poor farmers," it said.
The attached assets include a sugar plant and machinery of GSEL worth Rs 247 crore situated at Gangakhed in Parbhani district of Maharastra, land worth Rs 5 crore of GSEL, Yogeswari Hatcheries, Gangakhed Power Solar Limited in Parbhani, Beed and Dhule, bank balance of Rs 1.58 crore and investment in shares of Rs 1.91 crore held in the name of GSEL, it said.
The money laundering case was filed in May last year after the ED studied an FIR filed by Parbhani police against GSEL and its promoter Ratnakar Gutte and a chargesheet was filed before a court by the Aurangabad criminal investigation department (CID).
The police case was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including forgery and criminal conspiracy and on allegations of "fraudulently availing agricultural loan in the name of poor farmers on the basis of forged loan proposals submitted to the banks," the ED said.
The agency alleged that "GSEL in connivance with others misused the agricultural loan facility meant for poor farmers."
The scheme of agricultural loan is formulated for financing the farmers coming under the command area of the sugar factory, in this case the GSEL factory in the state's Parbhani district.
The aim of such bank loans is to meet the financial needs of sugarcane farmers, based on their land holding, for raising their crop which includes purchase of seeds, fertilisers, manure, machinery, tractor, pump, harvesting and transportation of the crop.
"Probe found that the accused created a data bank of farmers, who supplied sugarcane to the factory, by collecting their KYC at the time of purchasing their produce. The factory made an agreement or tie up with the banks for obtaining agricultural loan for the farmers," the ED said.
"By virtue of the agreement, GSEL become the agent for the banks whose responsibility was to do KYC verification of the farmers," it said.
During 2012-13 to 2016-17, GSEL "forged" agricultural loan proposals in the name of the farmers on the basis of their KYC and submitted it to the banks, the agency said.
Banks sanctioned agricultural loan of around Rs 772 crore based on this "forged" proposals.
"Money trail probe revealed that using this modus operandi, around Rs 635 crore were disbursed by the banks in the accounts opened in the name of the farmers. The funds were never utilised by the farmers and instead it was siphoned off into the different bank accounts of the GSEL on the basis of the forged consent letter of the farmers," the ED claimed.
These funds, the ED alleged, were utilised by the accused for purchase of land, erection and fabrication of the GSEL plant, purchase of shares, operative expenditure of the plant, repayment of the loan, administrative expenses etc., defeating the very purpose of the agricultural loan.
It said the agricultural loan of around Rs 255 crore later became a non-performing asset (NPA)
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