Just over two months after coming out of the jail, 61-year-old businessman from Pune, Hasan Ali Khan, had to face yet another search on Tuesday by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which his lawyers termed as “harassment with no prima facie evidence.”
ED officials on Tuesday raided his nine premises across six cities, including his house in plush Koregaon Park in Pune city, in connection with the case in which he is accused of laundering eight billion dollars, an estimate that saw a drastic fall in the years following his imprisonment in 2011.
After 14 applications in over four years, Khan was granted a bail in August last year. He came out of jail over two months ago.
PTI reported on Tuesday, “It is understood that the agency has got ‘fresh leads’ in the case, including by way of help from foreign jurisdictions.” The news agency also quoted an ED official saying that some cash and documents were seized during these raids.
For this massive search operation on Tuesday, the agency roped in officers from its regional offices such as Ahmedabad, Surat and Indore. In most the places, the raids ended by 7 pm, said ED sources. “The raids were conducted not just at places owned by Khan, but also at places owned by people with whom he had financial dealings,” said an ED official.
While Tuesday’s raids were in connection with a case registered under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the ED is yet to adjudicate its case against Khan under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) filed in 2009.
At Khan’s Pune residence located in Tulips building in Valentina Housing, an ED team came in a rented car from Mumbai around 8 am and were at his house till 7 pm. Sources said they confiscated the cellphones of family members during the raid and searched every corner of the house including the balcony garden.
In Mumbai, the raids were conducted in at least two places — one at Khan’s residence on Peddar Road and another at the residence of one of his associates. Other cities where the raids were conducted were Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
Prashant Patil, Khan’s lawyer based in Pune, said, “I, as his legal representative, went and enquired about the raid and got to know that ED has conducted it. We only have to say at this point that there is no prima facie case against Mr Khan. The government agencies since 2007 have not been able to find any evidence to prima facie frame him. Hence, they are just harassing him to the extent of he losing his liberty and health. Somebody has to be made accountable for this draconian execution of powers as granted to the executive.”
The Income Tax department had once cited Rs 1.1 lakh crore as Khan’s income, while the ED had claimed he had fraudulently stashed $8billion in 2007 in the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). The ED later scaled its 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 difficult to prove the claims in the absence of any concrete evidence.
In 2014, The Indian Express had reported – based on Finance Ministry documents – that the government had little hope of winning any of the Income Tax cases or appeals pending before various authorities 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 as forged the letter attributed to UBS.
The ED chargesheet in the case had also accused Khan of the “theft of a diamond at Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad,” adding that he “sold the same in the international market for $700,000 and laundered the same to Barclay’s bank in the name of S K Financials, a front company”.
The museum and the Hyderabad police, however, later clarified that no such diamond was stolen from there, rather there was no such diamond in the museum.