A day after the CBI booked her and five others for criminal conspiracy and abetting actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide, actor Rhea Chakraborty on Friday morning appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at their office in Ballard Estate, in connection with a money-laundering probe, and was questioned for more than nine hours by officers.
She was accompanied by her brother Showik, who has also been named as one of the accused in the CBI’s FIR on Thursday. Chakraborty’s business manager, Shruti Modi, who also worked for Rajput, appeared before the ED shortly after. Her father Indrajit Chakraborty and her chartered accountant (CA) Ritesh Shah were also questioned.Rhea has been called again on August 10, officials said.
The agency is understood to have questioned Chakraborty, who stated in her petition to the court that she was in a live-in relationship with Rajput, about her friendship with the actor, business dealings and the developments that took place over the last few years between them.
Statements from Chakraborty, Showik and Modi were recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), officers said.
Rajput's friend and roommate Siddharth Pithani, an IT professional said to be out of the city currently, has also been summoned by the ED to appear before it on Saturday. He was earlier questioned by Mumbai Police.
Earlier in the day, however, Chakraborty had refused to appear before ED. Speaking to The Free Press Journal then, her advocate Satish Maneshinde had said, "My client will not be appearing before the ED today (Friday). She has requested for a postponement of recording her statements by the ED till the Supreme Court hears her petition for transferring the probe.”
The Supreme Court is already seized with a plea filed by Chakraborty, seeking to transfer a probe against her by Patna Police to Mumbai. The plea is expected to be heard next week.
Later, however, Maneshinde said that since the ED had informed the media that the request to postpone her attendance had been rejected, Chakraborty had appeared before the ED. He said his client was a law-abiding citizen and would cooperate with the probe.
Following the questioning, Maneshinde on Friday night said, "My client went to the ED office alone. She hasn't done anything wrong so there's no reason for her to be afraid. She has answered all the questions posed to her by the ED officials. And their probe is complete." He, however, refused to divulge what ED had asked Chakraborty.
An ED officer, on condition of anonymity, said that Chakraborty remained evasive on most of the questions and claimed innocence. According to top ED officers, the probe agency asked over 20 questions related to the financial transactions from the bank account of the late actor, Sushant Singh Rajput who was found dead on June 14 in his Bandra flat.
The ED officer said she was asked about the details of movable and immovable properties, businesses, and companies in which she and her family members are stakeholders. The ED also asked Chakraborty to furnish details of her address, profession, family members, mode of income, details of bank accounts, and credit cards. She was also asked to give details about how she knew Rajput, and for how long, sources said.
She was also asked to share details of financial transactions with Rajput, whether she had any contract with the late actor for her finances, and Income Tax Return (ITR) details. Chakraborty allegedly told the ED that she did not have the ITR records on her, and that she would submit the ITR of the last five years through her legal team soon, sources said.
The ED also questioned Rhea about her investment in properties, including movable and immovable assets, and asked how these properties were bought in Mumbai, and the source of funding. A flat in Khar is under the ED’s scanner. The ED officials scrutinised property papers brought by her brother. The ED also sought details on whether there was any will of inheritance left behind by Rajput.
The agency "wants more answers" from Chakraborty over the alleged mismatch between her income as compared to her expenditure and investments. They said while Chakraborty has filed income tax returns stating an income of about Rs 14 lakh, the value of her investments are reportedly higher. Her father, they said, is a retired defence personnel who gets a pension of about Rs one lakh per month.
The official said that the ED also sought the details of income of Chakraborty's family members and whether any of the members are dependent on her.
Chakraborty was asked whether any transactions were made from Rajput’s Kotak Mahindra Bank account, as alleged by his father K K Singh in his complaint to the Patna Police on July 25. Rajput’s father has alleged that Rs 15 crore was siphoned off from Rajput's bank account in a year, to accounts of persons not known or connected to him.
The ED is also seeking details of the financial transactions of the two companies in which Chakraborty and her brother were directors, along with Rajput. According to ED, Chakraborty is a director in the firm Vividrage Rhealityx while her brother Showik is a director in Front India For World. The ED has sought details about the nature of business of the two companies and their financial health and transactions.
Meanwhile, her brother was questioned about his profession and his income details and how he managed his expenses.
The ED also gave a set of questions to Chakraborty’s CA about the financial condition of the actor and how she was managing her expenses and what were the investments made by her and family members.
Chakraborty had, on July 16, tweeted to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, demanding "justice" for Rajput and had also sought a probe by the CBI. Commenting on this demand, Maneshinde said, "We are not against the CBI probe. But we oppose the CBI taking over the probe on the recommendation of the Bihar government, since the Patna police has no jurisdiction in this case."
"We would have not opposed a CBI probe had it been recommended by the Maharashtra government. But the state's home minister has already clarified that this case doesn't require a CBI probe. Thus, we oppose the central agency's move to probe the matter," Maneshinde added.
With inputs from Agencies