LAST month, a three-member panel of top officials of investigating agencies is said to have questioned Pune-based businessman Hassan Ali Khan on alleged cross-border transactions and entities set up in tax havens after the Enforcement Directorate reportedly found fresh evidence of money laundering against Khan, sources told The Indian Express.
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The latest questioning comes after the Income Tax department submitted a letter of the Swiss Competent Authority in a tax tribunal in Mumbai in June 2015.
The December 18, 2013 letter of the Swiss authority, a response to a request of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), had confirmed the veracity of documents pertaining to bank accounts of Khan gathered from UBS AG Mumbai. “The Switzerland Authority has certified that out of 404 pages, 403 pages (containing bank account statement of Hassan Ali Khan) are true, except one page incorporating transaction dated 08.12.2006 of deposit of 8 billion dollars, which was forged,” the tax department told the tribunal.
In January 2007, the Swiss Competent Authority had informed the Indian government that the UBS bank statement reflecting a deposit of $8 billion in Khan’s account was forged but said Khan had a limited banking relationship with UBS AG Zurich.
So far, ED is probing Khan for alleged laundering of $93 million acquired by him in 1997 and $700,000 acquired in 2006 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
It is also investigating a June 2003 notarised statement of Khan confirming that he had opened an account in UBS, Singapore in 1982 with a deposit of $1.5 million. The account was allegedly opened on the recommendation of arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
“Khan has already been questioned by officials three times this year, the latest was in August when he was questioned for four days,” said a source. The investigation against Khan is also being monitored by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money.
When contacted, Khan’s lawyer Prashant Patil said: “We are not aware of any such developments in the matter. There is no official communication from the ED regarding any such development. But it is quite amusing that since 2007, the agencies are only carrying out investigation without an iota of evidence directly or indirectly connecting Mr Hasan Ali Khan to any offence under provisions of PMLA Act . He has lost his health and liberty to a so-called investigation which is eternal in nature and is never-ending. ED does not even bother to frame charges u/s 228 of CrPC before the Special PMLA Court at Mumbai, they are only interested in making allegations without any prima facie evidence. This is an ideal case of pre-trial conviction.”
Earlier in February, the ED had raided at least nine premises of Khan, his brother-in-law and associates in Gurgaon, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Hyderabad. Later, the ED provisionally attached the Pune residence of Khan under PMLA.
The ED has also forwarded a case of tax evasion by two companies — Payson Company Ltd and Autumn Holdings Ltd set up by Khan and his associate Kashinath Tapuriah in the British Virgin Islands. The case pertains to undisclosed income earned by Khan in the form of commission and consulting fees through these two companies between January 1985 and December 1989.
The Hasan Ali case dates back to May 5, 2007, when searches were conducted at various properties owned by him. A laptop recovered during the searches contained scanned copies of documents stating that Ali had accounts in UBS Zurich, with deposits in excess of US$ 8 billion.
In March 2011, Khan was arrested on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. The income tax department had asked him to pay a whopping Rs 34000 crore as taxes but earlier this year a tax tribunal revised the tax liability of Khan and his wife Reema Khan to a little over Rs 75 crore.