Saturday, October 01, 2022

SC dismisses ED plea against Mumbai police clean chit to Naresh Goyal

In what could come as a relief for Naresh Goyal, the promoter of Jet Airways, the Supreme Court earlier this week dismissed a plea filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) challenging the clean chit given by the Mumbai police in a cheating case that the city police had earlier filed.

The ED has been contesting the closure report filed by the Mumbai police against Jet Airways, Goyal and his wife Anita on a complaint filed by Akbar Travels of India Pvt Ltd (ATIPL) as it forms the predicate offence on which the federal agency has filed its money laundering case.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that if a person is discharged or acquitted in respect to the original offence, or gets the case quashed through a competent court, there can be no case of money laundering.

"The Goyals would like to have their passports back as they want to travel. They have moved the Bombay High Court to revoke the look- out circular (LOC) against them," said an industry source.

At least three agencies - the income-tax department, Serious Fraud Investigation Office and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) -have been probing Goyal and his family members over alleged irregularities at Jet Airways.

In 2020, following the Mumbai police clean chit, ED filed a protest petition before a local court faulting the Mumbai police probe, stating that the city police failed to probe the details of the offshore accounts provided by the complainant, Akbar Travels of India Pvt Ltd (ATIPL). It also claimed that there was evidence of money laundering and it was not a case of business loss as concluded by the police. The federal agency asserted that the local police failed to even record the statement of the accused, Naresh Goyal which is a requisite of any criminal investigation.

ED had highlighted multiple foreign bank accounts allegedly held by the couple in the UAE, UK, Switzerland, Singapore, US and other countries. The agency held that source of funds in eight offshore properties and investments in bonds by the couple was unclear.

On money being diverted into offshore accounts, the ED told the court that the "..analysis of evidence unearthed so far shows that there are huge credits in certain accounts. Bank account with HSBC Bank, Geneva belonging to Goyal, there is credit of more than Rs 180 crore in his bank in ADCB, UAE, that Goyal has so far not explained sources of these credits (sic)," the application states.

"Huge amount of money has been paid by Jet Airways to some of its group companies abroad by way of commission/reimbursement of expenses which are highly inflated, that it is, further, noted that said money is further diverted to personal accounts of Goyal and his wife Anita," ED's court filings stated.

The ED had confronted Goyal with documents related to 19 privately held companies, of which 14 were registered in India and five abroad. He was also summoned by the IT department in its probe of suspected tax evasion.

01/10/22 Rashmi Rajput & Sugata Ghosh/Economic Times

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