Mumbai: Nearly 80 Money Laundering Cases Filed By ED, Trials Yet To Start

Mumbai: In recent order by a special court in Mumbai, designated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act has said that Enforcement Directorate has not shown any activeness in starting trials of cases which are pending many years. Court records perused by The Indian Express at the Mumbai court show that the trial has not begun in a single case so far.

According to The Indian Express, court record show that from 2008 to 2022, nearly 80 cases have been filed under PMLA. only thee cases have been concluded. in these cases the trails did not began, the accused were discharged as the court found no evidence to proceed against them.

According to The Indian Express, records show that in only three cases charges were framed against the accused. In most of the cases hearing on the discharge applications filed by the accused and framing of charges by the court, is pending.

While granting bail, to the accused, in the Avantha Group realty case, including Yes Bank founder Rana Kapoor, a special court noted that not a single case under PMLA has been disposed of by judgment.

The court had said that it was a fact that, ever since this special Court for PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) cases has been established, not a single PMLA case has been disposed of by judgment. ED had not shown any active approach to begin the trials of the cases which have been pending since long.

Special Judge M G Deshpande in his order last month, while granting bail said, “Since the beginning till date, no one is sure when the trial of this case will begin and conclude. This aspect cannot be ignored.”

According to The Indian Express Report, same court is presiding over most of the cases filed by the ED.

As per the report, record show that between 2008 and 2012, per year ED had not filed more than one or two cases.

None of these cases, pending for over a decade, have seen the trial commence so far.

According to the reports, in 2008, the ED had registered a case against a company named OPM International. ED had booked the company for alleged money-laundering following a case filed by the Narcotics Control Bureau. Charges are yet to be framed in the case. The court is currently hearing discharge pleas filed by the accused.

In 2009 a case was registered against Dutch national Ashok Chugani and others. In this case, hearing on discharge applications is pending. According to reports, in 2019, the Supreme Court had sought an explanation on why the trial was delayed and ordered for it to be expedited in 2021.

The 2011 case against Pune stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan is also pending framing of charges. While one of his co-accused Kashinath Tapuriah, passed away, Khan himself has approached court many times seeking expediting of the trial. At the Bombay High Court, Khan’s lawyer filed a plea, is still pending. 

His petition filed through lawyer Prashant Patil states that Khan is medically critical and may die without a fair trial. It states that the ED had filed a case in 2007 against Khan, Tapuriah and others under PMLA. A chargesheet was filed against them in 2011. The case pertained to alleged money laundering pertaining to transactions in foreign accounts flagged by the Income Tax Department. Khan spent 4.5 years in prison in connection with the charges.

His petition in Bombay High Court states, “The present petitioner has time and again moved applications before the Honorable Special PMLA court at Mumbai to expedite his trial proceedings and to direct the prosecution to open the best prosecution case. After thorough follow-up, the present petitioner received the draft charges regarding the said matter only in the month of April 2018. It states that there is not a single prima facie evidence to frame charges against him.”

According to The Indian Express reports, in 2012, a money laundering case has been registered against a financial firm and others by ED. Charges were framed in the case in September 2021. Witness deposition is yet to begin.

According to The Indian Express, records cite that cases registered under PMLA began to increase gradually began to increase since 2013 from the single cases filed each year between 2008 and 2012. With ED filing multiple complaints resulting out of the same offence, as accused are sometimes added at a later stage, some of the complaints are repeated despite resulting out of the same alleged crime.

According to the reports, in 2013 the cases filed by the ED, including one in the alleged ponzi scheme case of City Limouzine Group, is also pending with charges yet to be framed. The other cases of 2013 include one against a ‘doctor’ who allegedly offered a cure for all diseases including cancer, Munir Khan, and one against Dipak Panchal and over 20 others for allegedly opening fictitious accounts to avail loans. In both cases, charges are yet to be framed.

In August 2021, in the Panchal case, an accused had filed a discharge application. In the this matter, the court observed that the case is quite old and discharge plea was filed after five years.

In 2014, of the seven PMLA cases, Bombay High Court stayed one case in February 202, and in three cases charges are yet to be framed. In one of the case the accused is missing and warrants have been issued against him. In two cases resulting out of the same complaint, the accused were discharged by the court in 2015.

As per the report, 11 cases were filed in 2015 including the NSEL case against Jignesh Shah and others, where too charges are yet to be framed. Only in one case have charges been framed.

In 2016, of the four cases filed, including one against NCP minister Chhagan Bhujbal charges have not been framed yet.

In 2017, 12 cases were filed, including one against Kingfisher Airlines, one against former MLA Ramesh Kadam, one against the family of Dawood aide, Iqbal Memon and others.

In only one case the accused was discharged by the court, after ED gave the accused its no objection, stating that there was no material to prove money laundering.

Among the 29 cases filed in 2018, including against businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, only one case has reached the evidence stage, with charges framed against the accused but witnesses are yet to be examined. Most cases are pending at the stage of hearing of discharge applications.

According to The Indian Express, in the eight cases registered in 2019 and 11 in 2020, charges are yet to be framed.

In 2021, the court records show, 15 cases filed by the ED, including against NCP leaders Eknath Khadse and Anil Deshmukh.

In 2022, the cases registered by the ED include those against NCP minister Nawab Malik, Pravin Raut and others.

Speaking with The Indian Express, the ED officials stated that the common reason for delay was the pendency of discharge applications.

The 2 year gap due to covid is also reason for delay, said an ED official to The Indian Express. Since most accused under PMLA were out on bail, the cases were not seen as priority. “In some cases, the discharge pleas have been pending for years. In one case, the accused have chosen to file a discharge plea only after many years when they want to delay the charge framing,” said an ED official to The Indian Express.

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