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Enforcement Directorate launches Separate Money Laundering Probe

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The Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has launched a separate anti-money laundering investigation in a case registered by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police against UK-based private equity firm Actis and 12 others in August last year.

People with direct knowledge of the matter said the ED had launched the probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. They said the federal agency recently sought relevant information and documents from the complainant in the case.

The EOW filed a First Information Report last year on the directions of a lower court after complainant Subhash Chaudhuri moved the court saying the EOW had failed to act on his June 2018 complaint where he had alleged that Actis had conspired to gain control of the finances, ownership and management of the Super-Max Group.

Last year, the Delhi High Court stayed both the “investigation arising from the FIR” and the “operation” of the lower court order.

ED has asked the complainant to furnish the complaint submitted to the EOW, along with supporting documents to corroborate his allegations, the sources said.

The federal agency has so far not issued summons to any entity/individual in the case.

“Actis has not been approached by the Enforcement Directorate,” a spokesperson for the UK-based entity told ET in response to a questionnaire.

“Actis is a regulated entity, operating in multiple jurisdictions globally and is always open and willing to cooperate with any regulatory agencies. We have been entirely cooperative throughout the EOW proceedings,” the spokesperson said.

The Delhi High Court subsequently stayed the operation of the order of the lower Court as well as further investigation arising from the FIR on an interim basis, the spokesperson added.

EOW had booked a total of 13 accused on August 19 last year, including Actis LLP (UK), Actis Consumer Grooming Products Ltd (Mauritius), Wesley International Ltd (Dubai) and employees/associates of Actis, including British nationals Ronald Edward Bell and Alan Greenough. The list also included Anindo Mukherji, group CEO, and Ketan Desai, group CFO, of the Super-Max Group.

The Delhi High Court had while staying the lower court order last year held that “prima-facie the impugned (lower Court) order appears to suffer from non-application of mind and lack of reasoning; and the registration of the FIR appears to be an act of misuse and abuse of the machinery of criminal law for ulterior motive and therefore informed by mala fidés.”

“In the circumstances, to permit investigation or proceedings to go on pursuant to the subject FIR does not appear to be justified,” it had said.

Further, it said, “without a shadow of doubt, the consequence of registration of the subject FIR is grave and serious inasmuch as it sets into motion a complex, and likely coercive, investigative process, which will lead almost inevitably to the arrest of the accused persons.”

Describing the allegations levelled against them as “totally false, fictitious, baseless and without any legal substance”, the accused had petitioned the High Court in August last year saying that the judgment passed by the lower court was “perverse and erroneous”.

Supermax Personal Care Pvt Ltd (SPCPL), an SM Group company and co-accused in the case, said in its petition that the lower court order “reflects non-application of judicial mind and has been mechanically passed by the Court”.

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