Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED), the agency that investigates economic crimes in the country, has lost the first round in its legal battle against Switzerland-based hotelier Philip Anandraj, an alleged accomplice of Hasan Ali Khan, the Pune stud-farm owner allegedly involved in laundering $8 billion (Rs33,920 crore).
The Mumbai sessions court on 8 August asked ED to return the passport of Anandraj that had been seized by the agency. The hotelier, denying any involvement in the money laundering case, moved the court against ED on 29 July for the return of his passport.
“We will move the (Bombay) high court against the order next week,” said a senior ED official who did not wish to be named.
On the run: Hasan Ali Khan
According to Anandraj’s lawyer, P. Janardhan, his client has not committed any offence. “In 2003, my client (Anandraj) introduced Khan to the owner of a hotel in Lucerne in Switzerland that Khan wanted to buy,” he said. “Negotiations took place but the deal was not struck as there was no money in Khan’s (bank) account.”
Janardhan also alleged that Khan borrowed $500,000 from Anandraj but never returned the money.
“In 2006, when Anandraj came to India to get his money back, ED seized Anandraj’s passport and laptop, which had details of the Swiss hotel deal and Khan’s bank accounts,” he said. “We have submitted all supporting documents based on which the court has passed the order.”
Mint reported on 4 August that ED claimed to have in its possession conclusive evidence to prove Anandraj’s association with Khan. “We have found that Khan has given the power of attorney to operate his five lockers with Barclays Bank Plc. in the UK to Anandraj,” a top ED official in Mumbai, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had then said in an interview. “ED is in talks with the UK government to get details of these lockers.”
ED also said investigations revealed that Anandraj was assisting Khan and his family to obtain Swiss citizenship and a work permit, but efforts fell apart midway as Indian authorities launched an investigation last year.
The same ED official had also said that another close partner of Khan, Kolkata-based industrialist Kashinath Tapuriah, had been reluctant to cooperate with the agency, which is slowing the investigation of the intricate multinational trail of money transfers from Khan’s international accounts.
Earlier in February, the Mumbai police had booked Khan for holding three fake passports. Following this, Khan filed an anticipatory bail application in the Bombay high court, but it was rejected.
On 30 April, a Mumbai court declared Khan a proclaimed offender after he failed to turn up. Since then, the Mumbai police has not been able to trace Khan.
Mint reported in a 2 February article that ED claimed to have found $8 billion in the Swiss bank accounts of Khan. ED also said it had evidence of a $300 million transfer to him via a Chase Manhattan Bank account in New York, from billionaire Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
To read our earlier stories on money laundering click here