The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has decided not to lodge an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in the Hiranandani hospital kidney transplant case after the agency found little evidence of money laundering in the matter, it is learnt. After studying the case thoroughly, sources in the agency told The Indian Express, the ED was of the opinion that no strong case could be made under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
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An ECIR by ED is equivalent to an FIR lodged by the police under the Code of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). In August this year, the ED had in a letter to the Mumbai Police sought details on illegal transplants allegedly carried out at the Powai-based hospital to examine the ‘money trail’ in the case. The Mumbai Police subsequently shared the case papers with the ED. “The probe by the Mumbai Police had revealed that while poor donors hailing from villages in Gujarat were lured with petty sums of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh, the patients were asked to pay around Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh. However, the FIR and the case documents are silent on the money trail and therefore it would be difficult for us to prove a case under PMLA and so we have decided not to register an ECIR in the case,” said a senior official from the agency who did not wish to be named.
“However, in the future if we or any other agency stumbles upon the money laundering aspect in this case or of such racket at other hospitals, we will definitely probe the same,” added the official. The agency sources said one of the reasons for the Mumbai Police failing to unearth the money trail was that the racket was busted when the transplant surgery was underway. Since the financial transaction was not completed, they said, the police were not able to ascertain who the beneficiaries were. “While in his statement donor Brij Kishore Jaiswal had indicated that ‘one of the doctors’ was present when the money was discussed, he died during the course of the investigation and therefore that trail went cold. Also, since money didn’t exchange hands, the police were not able to get any clinching evidence on either the share or the distribution of the amounts among the doctors. In such a scenario, proving the culpability of the doctors in a PMLA case would be difficult,” said the official.
According to the 1,100-page chargesheet filed in the Andheri Metropolitan Court earlier this month, the Mumbai Police had booked 14, including hospital CEO Dr Sujit Chatterjee, medical director Dr Anurag Naik and doctors Prakash Shetty, Mukesh Shah and Mukesh Shetye, for cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Transplantation of Human Organs Act. The charges were brought against the doctors based on the report submitted by the state’s Directorate of Health Services (DHS) in September, which concluded negligence on their part. On July 14, the Powai police had stopped a kidney transplant at the hospital. after being alerted by local social worker Mahesh Tanna.