Former Union minister Praful Patel has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate, which is investigating an alleged property deal between him and Hajra, the wife of Iqbal Mirchi. A drug smuggler who died in London in 2013, Iqbal Mirchi was a close aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who has been declared a global terrorist. The agency is investigating allegations of a quid pro quo in the deal, according to which, the minister helped the fugitive criminal.
Coming ahead of the assembly elections in the state, the issue has raised political ripples, with the BJP accusing the Congress of being in the know. Mr Patel was the civil aviation minister in the Congress-led UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh.
The Enforcement Directorate is looking into deals related to several properties -- including one in Ceejay House in the Worli area of Mumbai, which reportedly belonged to Iqbal Mirchi's first wife Hajra Memon. The building stands on a plot allegedly owned by Iqbal Mirchi. The agency is alleging that Mr Patel redeveloped Ceejay House in 2005.
The agency is considering the property as "proceeds of crime". Mukhtar Memon, believed to be the key person who handles various properties of Iqbal Mirchi in Mumbai, has also been questioned. Mukhtar Memon is the brother-in-law of Iqbal Mirchi.
Mr Patel today told the media that the matter is under investigation and the issue is if the "person at Ceejay House is linked with me".
The building, he said, was there in 1970. "After my father's death, there was dispute in the family among 21 co-owners. The Mumbai High Court was asked in 1978 to take charge and look after the property," he said.
The BJP has attacked Mr Patel's party, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress on the issue, alleging links between the former minister and a fugitive criminal. The Congress and the NCP are contesting the coming state elections as an alliance.
"There are documents available showing signatures of Patel and Hajra on the same papers, indicating they had an agreement over a property deal. What was the quid pro quo with Sonia Gandhi for inducting Patel in the Union Cabinet?" BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra questioned at a press conference today.
The NCP has rejected the allegation against Mr Patel and said the property was with the Court Receiver from 1978 to 2005 due to a dispute among co-owners.