In July this year, Hasan Ali Khan’s lawyers will be applying for a bail application for him one again — this time, with fresh hopes. This would be the seventh bail plea for Khan, the Pune-based stud farm owner and alleged hawala operator who faces charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
While six bail applications have been rejected so far since Khan’s arrest in 2011 from his home here, what has raised his hopes this time is the government’s acknowledgment that the probe is heading nowhere. The Indian Express had on Wednesday reported that the government has little hope of winning any of the Income Tax cases or appeals pending before various authorities against Khan. His lawyers believe the government’s admission is the final blow to “the shrinking substance” in the case against him.
“We have always been saying the case is based on false documents. The report just reiterates our stand. We now plan to apply for fresh bail in July,” Khan’s counsel Nand Kishore said on Wednesday. The case began with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) claiming that Khan had illegally parked $8 billion (Rs 36,000 crore) in the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). ED’s claim was based on a letter written by UBS AG to Khan on December 8, 2006.
In a fax to Letter Rogatory by the Embassy of India, Berne, Swiss Federal Office of Justice dismissed this allegation saying the December 8, 2006, letter was forged. In reply to Khan’s bail application in a sessions court, ED on April 23, 2012, admitted that Khan’s offence was “money laundering of US$ 93.7 million” — 85 times lesser than the figure of $8 billion.
ED had also claimed that Khan had “millions of USD” in three accounts — 206-794’786 (in the name of Khan’s wife Rheema Abbas with Hasan Ali Khan as the power of attorney), 206-789’758 and 206-790’786 (both in the name of Khan) — all opened on July 30, 2001.
The UBS AG in a report dated October 30, 2007, however, said while Rheema Abbas’s account was funded with “USD 61,031.30 cash on 15 August 2001 of which USD 60,700 was transferred out by wire transfer to third party individual (i.e. not Mr Khan or his family members) to an account at a bank in the United Arab Emirates on the same day”, the other two accounts “were never funded and there were no transactions of any kind” and “were “closed on October 17, 2011” within three-and-a- half months.
On December 28, 2007, the UBS AG wrote to S K Panda, Special Director, ED, saying UBS AG “remains convinced that the serious allegations that Hasan Ali Khan laundered massive sums through UBS, including involvement with notorious arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, remain baseless.as such we reject the allegations that Hasan Ali Khan has or had millions of US$ in accounts with us whether in Switzerland or in Singapore or millions of US$ in AAA (bonds) or other type of securities and we also reject that Hasan Ali Khan received hundreds of millions of US$ in proceeds from Adnan Khashoggi via UBS”.
Though the replies had been in possession of ED since 2007, the agency apparently produced them in the court only on May 25, 2012. In the chargesheet filed by ED before a special court in 2011, it had been alleged that Khan used a forged passport to travel to Singapore in 1997 for opening a bank account with Singapore Banking Corporation (SBC).
“(The) Said account was used to transfer USD 93 million from UBS Switzerland to SBC, Singapore. The said amount was brought to India through hawala route,” said the chargesheet. UBS, however, always said “whilst UBS was targeted by Khan from 1987 until 2001for using UBS for his fraudulent activities, UBS nevertheless managed to avoid substantive dealings with Mr Khan”.
The same chargesheet further books Khan for another offence of “theft of a diamond at Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad”, and selling the same “in the international market for USD 700,000 and laundered the same to Barclay’s bank in the name of S K Financials, a front company”.
Kalidas, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Detective Division, Hyderabad Police, however, told The Indian Express that no diamond was ever stolen from Salarjung Museum till date. M Veerender, Public Information Officer of Salarjung Museum, too, said no diamond had ever been stolen from the museum and that there was no diamond in the museum.