MUMBAI: On a day when the Enforcement Directorate issued a notice to Praful Patel to appear before it on Friday, the former civil aviation minister denied allegations of a financial deal between a company promoted by his family and the family of Iqbal Memon “Mirchi”, the late drug lord and a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim. Home minister Amit Shah had, on Monday, told reporters that the deal was “nothing short of treason”. At a press conference on Tuesday, Patel said an agreement to provide alternative accommodation to Hajra Iqbal Memon, Mirchi’s wife, was signed as per consent terms approved by Bombay HC on May 28, 1999, but there was absolutely no financial transaction at any stage between her and his family-promoted Millennium Developers.Patel said in the last one and a half decades, there had been nothing to suggest that there should be no dealing with Hajra Memon.There was no agreement for sale at any stage, it was an agreement for providing alternative accommodation in the redeveloped building; there was no financial deal. It is unfortunate that while the agreement was signed in 2004, now more than 15 years later, a probe is ordered,” said Patel. “If the government feels that the transaction is illegal, it can take over the property,” he added. Sources claimed ED is probing a deal involving transfer to Millennium Developers of a plot Mirchi owned at a prime location opposite the Nehru Planetarium in Worli. Millennium Developers had constructed a 15-storey commercial-cum-residential building, Ceejay House, on the plot. The senior NCP leader received the notice from the ED later in the day, while campaigning for Congress-NCP candidates for the assembly elections. Patel is the third high profile NCP leader under ED lens, after Chhagan Bhujbal and NCP president Sharad Pawar recently, in a cooperative bank scam.Asked if he had signed the alternative accommodation agreement, Patel said he was only the confirming party of the consent terms passed by the high court on behalf of the co-owners, Millennium Developers. “My role was limited. I was only the confirming party over the consent terms,” said Patel.”Hajra is an income-tax payer with a permanent account number, she must have been filing income-tax returns and disclosing the least rent earned from the said premises, TDA must have been deducted from time to time, the income-tax department is aware of the entire transaction, including subsequent licence fee collected by her. The deed of confirmation of 2007 was lodged for adjudication and registration by Hajra herself and no objection was raised by the stamp authorities. Even the subsequent leave and licence agreements have been duly registered without any objection. No agency raised an alarm against her,” said Patel.Tracing the history of litigation, Patel said in November 1963, the Maharaja of Gwalior sold the entire Shiv Sagar estate to DC Shah and 64 others, including 21 members of the Patel family. On part of the plot, the Patel family constructed Shreeniketan building, now known as Ceejay House. Following a legal dispute among the members of the Patel family, Bombay HC appointed a receiver in February 1978. At this point, a portion of the building was in possession of MK Mohammed, who had been in uninterrupted possession of part of the plot. On April 4, 1990, Mohammed, by a deed of assignment, gave it to Hajra Memon.In 1996, when the adjoining building, Poonam Chamber, collapsed, the HC directed it to be repaired along with Shreeniketan. The Patel family agreed to reconstruct the unsafe buildings entirely at its own cost. One member of the family filed a case against Hajra, challenging the validity of consent. Under the consent order, Millennium had the authority to negotiate and settle with the tenants and occupants, including Hajra.
Patel said subsequently, on November 4, 2004, an agreement to provide alternative accommodation to Hajra, Asif and Junaid Iqbal Memon was executed and it was registered on February 21, 2007. It was duly adjudicated by the stamp authority on an application made by Hajra, she was personally present before the sub-registrar. “A cursory glance at the chronology of events leads one to the conclusion that there was no agreement for sale, it was an agreement for providing alternative accommodation and that, too, with the consent of the high court receiver,” said Patel. ED’s case is that it is in possession of documents showing Hajra as the owner of the Worli plot and an alleged agreement, apparently duly registered, between Hajra and Millennium to redevelop the plot. As part of the deal, two floors of Ceejay House were transferred to the Memons in 2007 “towards beneficial interest of Mirchi in the land”.