The Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday registered an FIR against hotelier Jitendra ‘Jitu’ Navlani for allegedly collecting Rs 58 crore from businessmen by promising them protection from any action by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Navlani’s name has cropped up earlier as well in connection with former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Navlani, better known as Jitu Navlani – in his late 40s – is a builder and hotelier who owned the pub Dirty Buns SoBo in south Mumbai and was linked to another pub in Lower Parel.
The names of Navlani, along with his mother Geeta Devi, had found mention in the Panama Papers leak where details of those with offshore accounts were made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), of which The Indian Express is a partner in India.
Sources said that Navlani is influential and has “close relations” with several IAS and IPS officers, along with politicians. He is married to Bhumika Puri, a former model. The husband-wife duo is known to be close to several socialites and move around in the same social circle.
Navlani is known to throw lavish parties at his pubs, where IAS and IPS officers are also invited. Giving an example of Navlani’s clout, an officer said that once when an IPS officer had raided a pub linked to him in Lower Parel, the said officer had been pulled up by then Maharashtra DGP and a complaint had been made to the chief minister that the officer had exceeded his brief.
Navlani’s name first appeared in the media after the Gamdevi police registered an FIR against him for allegedly stopping the police from arresting an accused person who was partying in his pub Dirty Buns SoBo. The incident had taken place on November 23, 2019, when a police team came to the pub late at night and found it open. The police had asked Navlani, the owner, to shut the bar. The police had then alleged that Navlani had dropped names of several cops with whom he had connections.
Then Gamdevi senior inspector Anup Dange, who was leading the police team, had alleged that after a scuffle broke out between patrons of the bar while they were leaving, the police tried to intervene. Dange had claimed that Navlani had helped one of the customers to flee from the pub, following which, the Gamdevi police had registered an FIR against him. Last month, however, the Bombay High Court quashed the FIR against Navlani.
Later, when Param Bir Singh was ousted as the Mumbai Police commissioner, Dange had submitted an application to the ACB alleging that Singh had asked him to not include Navlani’s name in the FIR. However, since he had named him, Singh transferred and eventually suspended him.
Dange further alleged that Singh had demanded money from him if he wanted to be reinstated. The matter is currently being probed by the CBI.
Navlani’s name cropped up again when Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut alleged that he, in cahoots with ED officers, was running an extortion racket in Mumbai. Raut had alleged that Navlani would approach businessmen claiming to be operating at the behest of ED and promise them reprieve from any action by the central agency if they paid him money.