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PMLA Tribunal Slams ED for Poor Probe in PNB Case

September 22, 2019 06:59 AM

COURTESY THE ECONOMIC TIMES SEPT 22PMLA Tribunal Slams ED for Poor Probe in PNB Case
— Raghav Ohri

New Delhi:

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act Tribunal has slammed the Enforcement Directorate for “inadequate investigation” into the Punjab National Bank scandal and for attaching properties of a consortium of banks on the basis of “incomplete facts”.

Ordering the release of the properties attached by the ED worth ₹323 crore, which were mortgaged or hypothecated with the consortium of lenders led by ICICI Bank, the tribunal said that “innocent banks have become victims of fraud perpetuated” by Mehul Choksi and his companies, including Gitanjali Gems and others, which has been aggravated by “mechanical” attachment of properties that were not even proceeds of crime.

Paving the way for recovery of dues by banks, the tribunal ruled: “Public sectors banks’ money is the public’s money. The banks are in critical conditions as these alleged accused have cheated every citizen of this country.”

The order said: “Value of the properties … has depreciated significantly and is deteriorating on a daily basis, such that any delay in enforcement of recovery by the appellant (banks) would be rendered meaningless.” Referring to Choksi and Nirav Modi, the tribunal said “banks’ money has been looted by these cheaters. No doubt, they should also be dealt with criminal liabilities, but recovery process cannot be stalled in this way. These johnnies are always happy if their mortgage properties shall remain attached and should not be disposed of.”

Opposing the application of ICICI Bank, the ED had said in its response: “It is further submitted that during the course of investigation it was revealed that Mehul Choksi was desperately trying to dispose of his entire properties.”

“Slamming the ED for making a “a malafide afterthought and desperate attempt to improve its case” at the appellate stage, the tribunal called ED’s claim as a “bald statement”. It has held that ED failed to place on record any material to corroborate and substantiate its claim

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