ED in top gear, gets refund of Rs 23,000 crore to banks

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate is on overdrive with 992 prosecution complaints (chargesheets) filed so far for probes taken up under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which came into force in 2005.

Under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, it has filed over 8,000 show cause notices till date. Rs 23,000 crore have been refunded to public sector banks after selling properties of the accused whose assets were attached by the agency. Besides

PMLA

, the ED is also the designated agency for investigating the crimes under FEMA and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. The latter came into existence in 2018.

While a majority of cases under PMLA are pending, the agency has managed to obtain 25 convictions in the 17 year-old act. It has been encountering immense legal hurdles from many of the accused who are influential politicians and business tycoons.

Since 2005, the enforcement agency has registered over 5,400 probes under PMLA, the stringent act that came into being at the prodding of the Paris-based intergovernmental body, the Financial Action Task Force.

These are testing times for the Enforcement Directorate which has to satisfy the

FATF

how effectively India has implemented PMLA and countered money laundering and terrorist financing.

A mutual evaluation of India’s case by the FATF is pending since 2019. It has now been scheduled for May 2023 when a case review will establish if India has been able to combat money laundering effectively and taken adequate measures to counter terror financing.

An FATF good score is as important for New Delhi as it is integrated with the global financial system for accessing funds from the International Monetary Funds and the World Bank at low interest rates.

Prosecution complaints, or chargesheets, are being filed faster with the direction from the director of ED to all its officers to complete the investigation in a stipulated time limit.

A standard operating procedure has also been developed for probes where a timeline has to be followed from the time an ECIR (economic case information report) is registered to establishing the money trail in proceeds of crime and recording of statements of accused.

In 2010, India joined the FATF. The last mutual evaluation of India was conducted in 2009.

The ED has issued over 1,700 attachment orders where properties and other assets worth over Rs 1 lakh crore have been attached. In at least half of these cases, special PMLA courts have granted possession of the properties to the agency, validating the attachments.

In the three notorious cases of fugitive economic offenders — Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi — ED has claimed to have attached assets worth over Rs 19,000 crore. Out of which, ED has sold properties and recovered Rs 15,000 crore and “restituted these funds to the public sector banks” which had been swindled by these conmen. In addition, a consortium of banks led by SBI has recovered around Rs 8,000 crore “by sale of assets handed over to them by ED.”

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