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Rs 98,368 cr proceeds of crime attached: Govt to SC

New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that 4,850 cases have been taken up for investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the last 17 years and proceeds of crime of Rs 98,368 crore were identified and attached under the provision of the law.

The government told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar that investigation in these offences was carried out under the PMLA, including 2,883 searches.

The Apex Court is hearing arguments on a batch of pleas concerning the interpretation of certain provisions of the PMLA.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that investigation in 57 cases of terror and Naxal financing has resulted in the identification of proceeds of crime of Rs 1,249 crore and attachment of proceeds of crime of Rs 982 crore, that is 256 properties, and filing of 37 prosecution complaints and conviction of two terrorists under the PMLA.

He said out of the Rs 98,368 crore which were identified and attached, proceeds of crime of Rs 55,899 crore have been confirmed by the adjudicating authority.

In addition to this, proceeds of crime of Rs 853.16 crore has already been confiscated to the Central government under the orders of the competent court, Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar.

In the last 17 years, 4,850 cases have been taken up for investigation under the PMLA. The investigation in these offences was carried out by using investigative tools as provided under the PMLA, including 2,883 searches, he said.

The Solicitor General said the reason for this is the high threshold, the responsibility, and the layers of safeguards provided in the PMLA.

He referred to his note filed in the matter and said that attachment of proceeds of crime includes the properties of UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed, head of terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin, and alleged narcotic smuggler Iqbal Mirchi.

Mehta said the present batch of matters, which are pending consideration before the bench, involve a total expected alleged laundering of over Rs 67,000 crore.

It is pertinent to mention here that the quantum of proceeds of crime involved in the bunch cases of PMLA which are under consideration by court is Rs 67,104 crore, the note filed by the SG said. Mehta said he is referring to these figures as an impression is sought to be created by some of the petitioners that at the drop of a hat, searches are being conducted and attachments are being made.

The proceeds of crime of Rs 98,368 crore were identified and attached under Section 5 of the PMLA out of which, proceeds of crime of Rs 55,899 crore has been confirmed by the adjudicating authority and a substantial part of the attached proceeds of crime are still under adjudication by the adjudicating authority, he said.

The Solicitor General said during his arguments on Wednesday, he had referred to the figure relating to the attachment of assets worth over Rs 18,000 crore of fugitive offenders Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi.

It is submitted that timely attachment of proceeds of crime has led to attachment of assets worth of Rs 19,111.20 crore out of total fraud of Rs 22,585.83 crore by three fugitive offenders namely Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi, Mehta has said in his note filed in the court.

Out of the attached proceeds of crime from these 3 individuals, assets of Rs 15,113.91 crore has already been returned back to public sector banks by the ED u/s 8(7) PMLA through the order of the court and assets worth of Rs 335.06 crore has been confiscated to the Government of India i.e. 66.91 per cent of a total loss to the banks in these 3 cases has been returned back to them by the ED, the note said.

It further said that the State Bank of India has already recovered cash of Rs 7,975.27 crore by selling a part of assets returned to it by the ED and the process of liquidation of other restituted assets by the banks is continuing.

At the outset, Mehta told the bench that the apex court may not consider some provisions, which are impugned, in isolation and the entire scheme will have to be seen.

He said the legislative intent is not only punishment but prevention and giving it a deterrent effect. The arguments in the matter would continue next week.

Mehta had on Wednesday told the top court that 4,700 cases are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate as of date, and only 313 people have been arrested for the alleged offences since the enactment of the PMLA.

He had said that India is a part of a global anti-money laundering network and various conventions require all the member states to bring their respective money laundering law in tune with each other.

Some of the petitioners had earlier argued in the top court that there cannot be "mechanical lodging" of an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) as the PMLA requires that there must be some indication of the act of money laundering and projecting the proceeds of crime as untainted.

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