New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday initiated a money-laundering probe against Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, his nephew and former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and several others in connection with the Rs 25,000-crore scam in a case pertaining to the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB).

The development comes after the Mumbai Police, last month, registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Ajit Pawar and other functionaries in the scam, on the directions of the Bombay High Court.

The ED is likely to summon the accused soon to record their statements.

The accused are said to have caused loss to the bank, to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore to MSCB between 2007 and 2011.

The case pertains to alleged irregularities in loan disbursements to cooperative sugar factories, and allegations that loans were sanctioned despite having weak financials. An inspection carried out by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as well as a chargesheet filed by the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies (MCS) Act blamed Ajit Pawar’s ‘decisions, actions and inactions’ for the losses.

In fact, the NABARD audit report exposed breach of several banking laws and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines by the accused in the distribution of loans to sugar factories and spinning mills.

The ED action comes nearly a month before Maharashtra will go to polls, in single-phase elections, on October 21, as announced by the Election Commission (EC) last Saturday. Votes will be counted and results announced on October 24.

The state is currently governed by a BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government, with the former’s Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister.