Special court attaches assets of Gujarat IAS officer Pradeep Sharma

In more trouble for Gujarat cadre IAS officer Pradeep Sharma, a special anti-money laundering court here had ordered attachment of his immovable assets worth about Rs 75 lakh in a case of alleged corruption and criminal conspiracy in allotment of government land to a firm.

PTI| Updated: Jan 22, 2015, 16:17 PM IST

New Delhi: In more trouble for Gujarat cadre IAS officer Pradeep Sharma, a special anti-money laundering court here had ordered attachment of his immovable assets worth about Rs 75 lakh in a case of alleged corruption and criminal conspiracy in allotment of government land to a firm.

Sharma, who had been at loggerheads with the then Gujarat government led by Narendra Modi, was arrested in September last year over corruption charges and later got bail.

The case pertains to sanction of state government land in Bhuj district in 2004 for industrial use to a private firm Ms Welspun India Limited and its group companies Welspun Power and Steel and Welspun Gujarat Style Roharan by Sharma, who was the then Collector of the district and the Chairman of the District Land Evaluation and Pricing Committee.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in this deal in 2012, based on a Gujarat CID FIR of 2010.

The agency, in September 2014, attached agricultural land in Dahegam in Gandhinagar with a market value of Rs 55 lakh and a portion of a residential house in the same district which has a approximate value of Rs 20 lakh in the name of Sharma, after which it approached the special court for confirmation of its provisional order.

"On careful consideration of the arguments advanced on behalf of the complainant (ED)... (I) come to the prima facie conclusion that the defendants (Sharma and his wife) have committed the scheduled offences, generated proceeds of crime and laundered them. No doubt, the properties attached are proceeds of crime/value thereof are involved in money laundering," the court of PMLA Adjudicating Authority Mukesh Kumar said in its latest order.

The Authority said as it received no representation from the defendants (Sharma and others), in person or written statements, case for "confirmation" of the ED order is made out.

The central agency's probe in the case found that Sharma had "sanctioned huge land at cheaper price to one MS Welspun India Ltd and its sister concerns Ms Welspun Gujarat Stahi Rohren, Ms Welspun Power and Steel company by manipulative acts in gross violation of norms, instructions and guidelines as laid down by the state government of Gujarat.

"That by the said act, Shri Pradeep N Sharma in connivance with other persons had allegedly caused financial losses to the state government to the tune of Rs 1.20 crore (approx). Against this favour, he has received gain to the tune of Rs 22 lakh in the name of his wife Mrs Shyamal P Sharma within a short period of 15 months by just investing Rs 1 lakh (in January 2008) in one Ms Value Packaging," the ED probe report said.

The orders issued by the Adjudicating Authority can be challenged by the aggrieved party before the Appellate Tribunal for PMLA.

An attachment under the money laundering laws is aimed to deprive the accused of such crimes from the benefits of his or her ill-gotten wealth.

Sharma, who was facing corruption cases, had earlier filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that he was being victimised by the then Modi government and had sought a CBI inquiry in the cases against him. However, the Supreme Court had rejected his application.

Sharma's name had cropped in the alleged snoopgate controversy.