CBI sends letters rogatory to Hong Kong in Rs 156-cr diamonds over-invoicing case
New Delhi: The CBI has sent a judicial request to Hong Kong seeking assistance in its probe into a racket that allegedly imported diamonds with inflated invoices worth Rs 156 crore to camouflage its money laundering activities, officials said.
The central agency has dispatched the letters rogatory (LR), a judicial request, to the Secretary for Justice, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, seeking details about transactions and accounts flagged during the probe.
The CBI had first approached the Home Ministry with its application for the go-ahead for sending the LR. After getting the nod under Section 166 A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the application was submitted to a special court in Mumbai which had ordered the issuance of the LR.
The letters rogatory are a legal plea from a court of one country to another seeking assistance in the probe of a case.
The agency had in January 2020 booked 17 individuals and companies, including three Mumbai-based senior Customs officials, for allegedly being part of a money laundering racket using over-invoiced import of diamonds worth over Rs 156 crore.
The diamonds were imported to India from Hong Kong, hence the CBI sought assistance from its law enforcement agencies to collect the required information, they said.
The agency refused to give details of the information sought by it as it may hamper its probe.
The case was referred to the CBI after a Directorate of Revenue Intelligence probe found the alleged involvement of Customs officials in the conspiracy, they said.
The DRI probe had alleged that Hong Kong-based businessman Girish Kadel had imported rough diamonds from Switzerland to Hong Kong in the name of his four companies.
Kadel, having Belgian passports and business interests in India, had exported some of these diamonds to India through 14 consignments in the name of two companies — Antique Exim Pvt Ltd and Tanman Jewels — showing over-invoiced value of Rs 156.28 crore.
The DRI had found during revaluation that the actual value of the consignments was Rs 1.03 crore. The CBI investigation so far has shown that Kadel allegedly used importer-exporter codes (IECs) of Antique Exim Private Limited and Tanman Jewels Private Limited through his aide Atul Paldecha for siphoning off the money outside India through the import of overvalued goods.
He allegedly conspired to import rough diamonds at highly exaggerated value with a view to siphon off the excess foreign exchange overseas to cover the differential cost of other imports as well as to park money abroad for unlawful activities, the CBI probe has found.
Kadel allegedly "persuaded" customs brokers Pradeepkumar J Jhaveri and Vishal Suresh Kakkad of Impress Clearing And Forwarding Pvt Ltd. for favourable valuation reports.
The CBI found that after revaluation of these 14 consignments of rough diamonds, it was found that their actual value was $1,76,492 (Rs 1.21 crore) against the declared value $2,26,17,110.5 (Rs 156 crore) during June, 2018.