ED (Enforcement Directorate) claims are big but are these the tip of the iceberg?
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), India’s anti-money laundering agency has attached Rs.98,368 crore worth of assets. The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that 4,850 cases have been taken up for investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the last 17 years and proceeds of crime of Rs.98,368 crore were identified and attached under the provision of the law. The government told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar that investigation in these offences was carried out under the PMLA, including 2,883 searches.
The apex court is hearing arguments on a batch of pleas concerning the interpretation of certain provisions of the PMLA. Interestingly former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti also filed a petition against the PMLA, terming the Act as draconian. The irony is the PMLA’s strong provisions were passed by then Finance Minister Chidambaram in 2012 and now his son (both father and son are now accused under PMLA in corruption-related cases like the Aircel-Maxis scam and INX Media bribery case) is arguing in courts that law passed by his father was draconian.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that investigation in 57 cases of terror and Naxal financing has resulted in the identification of proceeds of crime of Rs.1,249 crore and attachment of proceeds of crime of Rs.982 crore, that is 256 properties, and filing of 37 prosecution complaints and conviction of two terrorists under the PMLA. He said that out of the Rs.98,368 crore, which was identified and attached, proceeds of crime of Rs.55,899 crore have been confirmed by the adjudicating authority.
“In addition to this, proceeds of crime of Rs.853.16 crore has already been confiscated to the Central government under the orders of the competent court,” Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar. “In the last 17 years, 4,850 cases have been taken up for investigation under the PMLA. The investigation in these offences was carried out by using investigative tools as provided under the PMLA including 2,883 searches,” he said.
Mehta said the present batch of matters, which are pending consideration before the bench, involve a total expected alleged laundering of over Rs.67,000 crore. “It is pertinent to mention here that quantum of proceeds of crime involve in the bunch cases of PMLA which are under consideration by court is Rs.67,104 crore,” the note filed by the solicitor general said.
“The proceeds of crime of Rs.98,368 crore were identified and attached under Section 5 of the PMLA out of which, proceeds of crime of Rs.55,899 crore has been confirmed by the adjudicating authority and substantial part of the attached proceeds of crime are still under adjudication by the adjudicating authority,” he said.
The Solicitor General said that during his arguments on Wednesday, he had referred to the figure relating to the attachment of assets worth over Rs.18,000 crore of fugitive offenders Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi. “It is submitted that timely attachment of proceeds of crime has led to attachment of assets worth of Rs.19,111.20 crore out of total fraud of Rs.22,585.83 crore by three fugitive offenders namely Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi,” Mehta has said in his note filed in the court.
“Out of the attached proceeds of crime from these 3 individuals, assets of Rs.15,113.91 crore has already been returned back to public sector banks by the ED u/s 8(7) PMLA through the order of the court and assets worth of Rs.335.06 crore has been confiscated to the Government of India i.e. 66.91 percent of a total loss to the banks in these 3 cases has been returned back to them by the ED,” the note said. It further said that the State Bank of India has already recovered cash of Rs.7,975.27 crore by selling a part of assets returned to it by the ED and the process of liquidation of other restituted assets by the banks is continuing.
[with PTI inputs]
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