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Under CBI lens, 6 firms owned by Maharashtra former minister Anil Deshmukh’s sons

A Kolkata-based company is among over half-a-dozen firms owned by the two sons of Anil Deshmukh, former home minister of Maharashtra, that have come under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), sources have told The Indian Express.

The Kolkata firm has been operating from an address that’s a known hotspot of shell companies, the sources added.

The CBI is investigating Deshmukh for corruption and alleged “attempt to obtain undue advantage for improper and dishonest performance of the public duty”. The agency is also probing Deshmukh for exercising “undue influence” over transfers, postings of police officials in the state and influencing the performance of officials as alleged by former Mumbai Police commissioner Parambir Singh.

As part of its corruption probe, the CBI, sources said, is examining the financial records of companies owned by Deshmukh’s sons, Salil Deshmukh and Hrishikesh Deshmukh, including the Kolkata-based Zodiac Dealcom Pvt Ltd.

Sources said the registered address of Zodiac Dealcom is 9/12 Lal Bazaar, Block E, Second Floor, Kolkata. It’s in a colonial-era building called Mercantile Buildings, which was identified as a hotspot of over 400 shell companies in 2017 by a task force appointed by the Central government during the course of a crackdown on shell companies and black money.

While a number of these shell companies were subsequently shut down by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), records of the Registrar of Companies (RoC) show that over 100 of them are still active from the same building. At least 30 of these active firms have their registered office at the same address as that of Zodiac Dealcom.

Records show that as of March 2019, Zodiac Dealcom was owned by four firms — Ayati Gems Pvt Ltd, Concrete Real Estates Pvt Ltd, Atlantic Vista Real Estates Pvt Ltd and Concrete Enterprises Pvt Ltd — all controlled by Salil, Hrishikesh and a few other family members of Anil Deshmukh.

Deshmukh declined to comment on the CBI investigation into the companies owned by his sons. “I have no comments,” he said on the phone.

According to the financial statement of Zodiac Dealcom for financial year 2017-2018 — the latest year for which documents are available — the firm recorded sales of Rs 16 lakh, the first time since 2015 (the earliest available records), but it has not specified the nature of the sales. The company had reserves and surplus of Rs 10.32 crore and extended loans of Rs 7.56 crore to related parties and a few others. The company has not disclosed the names of the related parties that got the loans. The financial statements also reveal that Zodiac Dealcom holds unquoted equity shares of an unidentified company worth about Rs 3 crore. Zodiac Dealcom, acquired by the Deshmukh family in 2010 from the original owners of the company, has no fixed assets and no employees except the two directors, Salil and Hrishikesh.

The CBI initiated an inquiry against Anil Deshmukh after the Bombay High Court directed the agency to look into the allegations of corruption leveled by Parambir Singh against him.

On March 20, Singh, in an eight-page letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, alleged that Deshmukh asked now suspended API Sachin Waze to collect Rs 100 crore every month, including Rs 40-50 crore, from 1,750 bars and restaurants in Mumbai.

Waze is being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for his alleged role in the Ambani house bomb scare and the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran.

Waze had earlier submitted a letter to the NIA court supporting the allegations made by Singh against Deshmukh and also levelling charges against Transport Minister Anil Parab of the Shiv Sena. Waze has alleged that Deshmukh has asked him to pay Rs 2 crore for his reinstatement with the Mumbai Police. The court however, has not taken the letter on record.

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