Continuing its operations against arrested businessman Parasmal Lodha, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday recovered a stash of diamonds, rubies and jewellery from a bank locker allegedly belonging to him in Kolkata. The valuables were recovered from a locker at a public bank branch in Ballygunj area, and the ED is presently in the process of ascertaining their collective value. On Tuesday, the agency had raided another locker — allegedly belonging to Lodha — from a bank in Park Street, from which they recovered “gold jewellery”.
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Sources within the ED said that most of the bank accounts the agency had discovered while probing Lodha were in the name of his daughter. The ED will continue to raid more lockers and even investigate Lodha’s investments, said sources. Officials also said that money he had deposited abroad was under the scanner, and that a search was on for documents to establish links with some prominent names who may be part of the money laundering racket. “His financial operations are being scrutinised,” said an official.
The ED is investigating Lodha after it booked him on criminal charges for his alleged involvement in two high-profile cases of illegal conversion of old notes post demonetisation. Lodha (62) is also expected to be produced in a court in Delhi as his ED custody ends on Thursday. The agency, as part of the searches in Kolkata, covered two of his premises at S N Roy road and Queens Park. Apart from seizing some computer peripherals and other hardware, it had also recovered some documents, purported to be of a Swiss bank account in the name of a woman, who could be associated with Lodha.
Lodha was arrested by the agency in “connection with the recovery of large amount in new currency notes from a company belonging to Rohit Tandon and J Sekhar Reddy of Chennai”. The agency had earlier claimed that he was involved in a “deep-rooted conspiracy”, and that he was charging a commission “at the rate of 15-20 per cent” to convert old notes into new ones for several people.
It had said Lodha admitted that “post demonetisation he and his associates had converted old currency of at least Rs 25 crore into new currency notes.” While Tandon’s case pertains to an operation of Delhi Police and the income tax department earlier this month, when the agencies had allegedly seized Rs 13.6 crore from a law firm he is associated with, that of mining baron Reddy relates to Chennai, where the I-T department has made the biggest detection of alleged unaccounted income of over Rs 142 crore, including Rs 34 crore cash seizure in new notes of Rs 2,000. Tandon was also arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in Delhi on Wednesday under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Both cases pertain to the ED’s anti-black money operations post the currency ban. These two cases, involving Tandon and Reddy, are being probed by at least four agencies — the ED, the Income Tax department, the CBI and Delhi Police.