Maharashtra: Billionaire Wadhawans, being investigated for fraud, defy coronavirus lockdown
In what shows a blatant abuse of power and money, 23 members of the Wadhawan family managed to defy the coronavirus lockdown in Maharashtra and went from Khandala to their farmhouse in Mahabaleshwar, some 185 km away. The erring family members, include Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan, who are promoters of the infamous Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd. (DHFL). The brothers are currently out on bail.
Their outing at a time when a strict lockdown has been enforced across Maharashtra, and more so in Mumbai and Pune, has left the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government red-faced. A probe has been ordered by state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, an NCP politician. The presence of the Wadhawans at Mahabaleshwar was flagged by locals, prompting police action. The bunch was booked and sent for quarantine.
Reports suggested the family, along with their cooks and servants, reached the hill station on Wednesday evening in five cars. An order, allowing their travel, was signed by Amitabh Gupta, Principal Secretary (special), Home Department, on Wednesday. The letter named the persons and detailed registration number of vehicles. They are my family members and are traveling for a family emergency, Gupta's undersigned letter read.
A bodyguard from Italy, one of the worst COVID-19 affected nations, was also part of the group. All of them have been booked under Section 188 of IPC (disobedience of lawful order of public servant). One of the first ones to raise an alarm in this matter was BJP's Kirit Somaiya who said the Maharashtra government gave VIP treatment to the family.
With whose order or blessings was this done ?— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) April 9, 2020
Mr. CM HM you owe us an explanation.
Subsequently, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting where Maharashtra Directorate General of Police Subodh Jaiswal apprised him of the situation. Gupta was sent on compulsory leave too. However, some Home Ministry officials denied that the Wadhawans were given permission to travel to Mahabaleshwar, reports IE. They were living in Khandala and when one elderly felt unwell, they sought permission to go to their Matheran residence.
Ironically, just last month the accused brothers skipped Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons for a third time, citing coronavirus pandemic. "Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, with my already compromised health and age I am at high risk and consequently for my own health and safety it is difficult for me to travel back to Mumbai," Kapil wrote in a letter to ED.
Apparently, the CBI is in touch with Maharashtra police and could take the brothers in custody, once the quarantine period ends. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Maharashtra continued to surge. 1,364 positive cases have been reported from the state and nearly 100 have died. At least three people have passed away due to COVID-19 in Dharavi, one of the most populated areas.