The Central Government has told to the Supreme Court that Rs 18000 crore have been returned to the banks which were stifled by fugitives Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi until now. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was representing the Centre during a hearing on petitions challenging the scope of powers available to the directorate of enforcement (ED) for investigation of crime under the law.
SG Tushar Mehta was representing the Centre before a three-member bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar. He told that the total record of criminal cases in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) pending before the top court amounts to whooping Rs 67,000 crore. Detailing about the cases investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), he added that 4,700 cases are being investigated as of now. From 111 cases taken up by the ED concerning the PMLA act in 2015-16, the number has increased to 981 in 2020-21.
While comparing the numbers with the global data, Tushar Mehta added, “very small number of cases are being taken up for investigation under the PMLA as compared to annual registration of the cases under the Money Laundering Act in the UK (7,900), the US (1,532), China (4,691), Austria (1,036), Hongkong (1,823), Belgium (1,862) and Russia (2,764).”
“The efforts against money laundering have consistently advocated to include the widest range of predicate offences in the domestic laws,” added Mehta emphasizing that the measures against money-laundering cases are not only restricted to drug or terrorism-related offences and have moved beyond the same. The Centre’s responses came after senior Congress-affiliated advocates including Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, Sidharth Luthra, Amit Desai, and others made submissions before the apex court on various aspects related to potential misuse of PMLA provisions introduced by way of amendments to the act.
Vijay Mallya fled to London after he was accused in the Rs 9,000 crore fraud case which led to the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines. In July 2021, a London court had declared him bankrupt. Prior to that in May 2020, he had lost the legal battle against his extradition to India. However, he has not yet returned to face trial. Mallya continues to be on bail while a “confidential” legal process is completed before he is sent to India. Reportedly, he has applied for political asylum in UK now.
In April 2021, The British Home Secretary had approved of the path to Nirav Modi’s extradition to India wherein he is accused of money laundering related to his $2 Billion USD Punjab National Bank Scam. The other accused in the case Mehul Choksi is living in Antigua and Barbuda, where he has obtained citizenship against investment.
In July last year, the ED handed shares worth Rs 792 crores to a consortium of banks recovered from the above three wilful defaulters. In December 2021, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman while answering a question in the Parliament had announced that Rs. 13000 crore were already recovered from the asset sale of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, and erstwhile liquor baron Vijay Mallya.