The Enforcement Directorate conducted searches at multiple locations in Maharashtra on Thursday in connection with an alleged Rs-328 crore farm loan fraud, perpetrated using identities of "bogus and dead farmers" by a firm linked to a politician, whose party is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
The ED raided 10 locations in Mumbai and Parbhani district as part of a criminal case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against Ratnakar Gutte, the chairman of Gangakhed Sugar and Energy Private Limited (GSEPL), it said.
Mr Gutte is a member of the Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP), a BJP ally in Maharashtra, and father of Vijay Gutte, who directed the recently-released Hindi film, "The Accidental Prime Minister", based on a book of the same name and about the two-term tenure of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Vijay Gutte was arrested last year in an alleged Goods and Services Tax fraud case.
"GSEPL has fraudulently availed loans from Andhra bank, UCO Bank, United Bank of India, Bank of India, Syndicate Bank, Ratnakar Bank in the guise of crop loans for 8-10 thousand farmers on the basis of guarantee given by the company," the federal agency said in a statement.
The sanctioned crop loan amount "was deposited in bogus savings accounts of either non-existent or dead farmers and on the same day, the entire amount was transferred to the current account of GSEPL," the ED said.
"It is alleged that an amount of Rs 328 crore was siphoned off by GSEPL by diverting the loans," it added.
The agency was working towards collecting additional evidence as part of the raid action, official sources said.
The ED had filed a criminal case under the anti-money laundering law on the basis of an First Information Report registered in Parbhani against GSEPL, its chairman and directors, among others, a few years ago.
"It is alleged in the FIR that during the period 2012-2017, GSEPL, through Ratnakar Gutte and its employees, created forged documents like 7/12 extract, photographs and other fraudulent documents of eight to ten thousand farmers in order to avail crop loans.
"These loans were illegally availed from various banks in the names of non-existing/bogus farmers and even in the names of some dead farmers," the agency said.
Bogus savings accounts were created against these names and GSEPL submitted these bogus documents, on the basis of which the crop loans were sanctioned, it said.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had last year alleged that firms linked to Mr Gutte had secured loans worth over Rs 5,400 crore on the basis of fake documents made in the names of farmers.
"In 2015, Gangakhed Sugar Factory procured bank loans in the names of more than 600 farmers under the 'Harvest and Transport scheme'.
"These farmers are now getting bank notices for loan amounts, some of which are as high as Rs 25 lakh," Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde had claimed.