SIXTY-ONE year-old businessman from Pune, Hasan Ali Khan is out of jail and back home after 14 bail applications were moved for the purpose since his incarceration in 2011.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had at the time of his arrest accused him of laundering eight billion dollars — an estimate that saw a drastic fall in the years following his imprisonment. But though out on bail now, after 13 bail applications were rejected and the 14th accepted, Khan continues to battle severe health issues on one hand, and on the other, fight the notice issued by the ED for attachment of his property.
The Income Tax department had once cited Rs 1.1 lakh crore as his income, while the Enforcement Directorate had claimed he had fraudulently parked $8 billion in 2007 in the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). The ED later scaled that claim down to $93.7 million in Switzerland’s Bank Sarasin and Singapore’s SBC. If sources from within the ED were to be believed, the agency is finding even more difficult to prove the claims in the absence of any concrete evidence.
In May 2014, The Indian Express reported about the Finance Ministry documents that suggested that the ministry had little hope of winning any Income Tax case or appeal pending against Khan. The claim of $8 billion had been based on a letter supposedly written by UBS to Khan on December 8, 2006. In a response to a letter rogatory from the Indian Embassy in Berne, however, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice declared the letter attributed to UBS as forged. In 2011, the ED filed a chargesheet in a special court alleging, “The said account (in SBC) was used to transfer $93 million from UBS Switzerland. The said amount was brought to India through hawala route.” Khan was arrested in March 2011, only to be released recently.
Advocate Prashant Patil, the lawyer representing Khan, said, “Mr Khan has been granted bail by the Bombay High Court on grounds that he has undergone more than half of the imprisonment as contemplated under the sections of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, that he has been charged with. Till today, there is nothing prima facie that the ED has been able to establish. There is not even a single piece of corroborative evidence in whatsoever nature to even open the prosecution.” ED officials were not contactable for an official comment.
Advocate Patil added, “The imprisonment has caused immense health problems to Mr Khan with his both kidneys malfunctioning, diabetes at its peak, vision diluted and blurred. It is an endless prosecution without any corroborative evidence.” Sources said that Khan’s son had to discontinue his schooling, due to the trouble from other students because of his family background.
The ED chargesheet had accused Khan of ‘theft of a diamond from Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad’, and stated that he had ‘sold the same in the international market for $700,000 and laundered the same to Barclay’s bank in the name of SK Financials, a front company.” Hyderabad police had, later, clarified that the museum had told them that ‘no diamond has ever been stolen from the museum. In fact, the museum did not have any diamonds.’
Taking its efforts further, the ED has now issued a notice to attach the properties of Khan. Advocate Patil said, “The ED has served upon a notice for possession of properties belonging to Khan and his wife, without prima facie establishing whether he is liable to be prosecuted under Section 3 and Section 4 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act.” Sources close to family have stated that a lot of time and resources of the family are being used up by the legal cases.
Hasan himself was unavailable for comment.