ED arrests IREO group’s Lalit Goyal in money laundering case
Days after being apprehended from Delhi Airport, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday arrested Lalit Goyal, the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of real estate group IREO, in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to the alleged diversion of home buyers’ funds to the tune of Rs.2,600 crore. Goyal is now remanded to ED’s custody for seven days. His name was also figured in Pandora Papers Leak for putting more than 77 million dollars in offshore funds.
The ED told the Court that the businessman was “non-cooperative and did not divulge any relevant information” during questioning and hence, was taken into custody under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Lalit Goyal was stopped by immigration authorities last Thursday (November 11) at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport “while he was trying to leave the country”. The action was taken by immigration officials on the basis of an ED lookout circular issued against him.
Lalit Goyal, whose sister is married to BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal, was questioned at the airport and detained by the agency following which he was being questioned in Chandigarh. The real estate company IREO was floated in 2004 and bagged many contracts in housing and infrastructure. The company is having more than 30 projects across India. The ED said its criminal investigation against Goyal is based on FIRs filed by Panchkula Police in Haryana and also by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police against companies like IREO Private Limited and IREO Fiveriver Private Limited, and Lalit Goyal and others.
The ED said the group adopted a modus operandi that included “routing of funds from various entities based in tax haven countries like the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Mauritius, etc, diversion of funds by way of buyback of equity shares, recording of fictitious expenses in the books of accounts, writing off the project in progress, loans, and advances to sister concerns and round-tripping of funds through shell companies”. “Total funds involved are over Rs.2,600 crore, part of which is proceeds of crime,” it alleged.
Goyal, it said, is “settler and named beneficiary of a Guernsey-based overseas Trust, which owns and controls entities holding assets outside India”. ED said the recent ‘Pandora Papers’ global leaks of offshore assets holdings by individuals and firms “also named four entities (which are beneficially owned by Lalit Goyal) having registered address in BVI and holding assets having value more than USD 77.73 million (about Rs.575 crore)”.
The businessman and his legal team had earlier denied any illegalities on their part and had said no funds were diverted abroad in violation of laws.
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