May 18, 2022 12:22:21 pm
A Special Court in Mumbai on Tuesday framed charges against Pune-based ailing businessman Hasan Ali Khan, who, the Enforcement Directorate has alleged, laundered a whopping Rs 1.1 lakh crores. He is claimed to have parked money in Swiss banks and is alleged to have had links with an international arms dealer too.
Who is Hasan Ali Khan?
Before he first hit the national deadlines in 2007 as one of the biggest money launderers in the country when the Income Tax raided his properties years ago, 67-year-old Khan was hardly known outside his business fraternity of Pune and the horse racing circles. Before settling down in Pune around 2000, Khan lived in Hyderabad along with his sisters and a brother. His father was an employee in the excise department, according to officials.
As a businessman, Khan is known to have tried his hands with different ventures in Hyderabad – he floated a car rental service, ran metal and scrap trading company, and launched another firm dealing in finance that was later accused of cheating some banks. The Hyderabad Police have at least six cases of cheating, fraud and forgery against Khan, all registered in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The legal status of these cases is not known.
According to the Hyderabad police, Khan had been booked for cheating a bank to the tune of Rs 26 lakh. In another case, he is alleged to have cheated four people, from whom he took Rs 70 lakh in total, promising them foreign currency as commission. Horse-racing remained his key interest all throughout and he used to travel regularly to attend races in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore and bet large sums of money. While he is often called a ‘stud farm owner’, there are conflicting reports on whether he ever owned a stud farm.
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What are the cases against Khan?
Around 2006, various government agencies are said to have gotten wind of alleged dealings between Khan and Philip Anandraj, a Switzerland-based hotelier. The deal was said to be about buying a heritage hotel in Switzerland. The Income Tax department raided his residence on January 6 and 7 in 2007. Anandraj happened to be at Khan’s residence when the raids happened.
Among other things, the IT sleuths found a letter in Anandraj’s laptop, apparently issued by the Union Bank of Switzerland, mentioning that an account in Khan’s name had USD 8 billion (over Rs 36,000 crore at that time) in deposits. From the money transfers to and from this account, as shown in the documents seized, a link with international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi was also claimed. A subsequent raid at the residence of Kashinath Tapuriah, a Kolkata-based associate of Khan, found several transfer instructions which showed that Khan had from time instructed UBS to transfer monies to Tapuriah.
During later investigations, however, the Swiss authorities found these documents to be fake. In a response to a letter rogatory from the Indian embassy in Berne, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice is said to have declared as forged the letter claiming deposits of USD 8 billion attributed to UBS.
After the raids, the IT department proceeded to assess Khan for the period 2001-02 till 2007-08 and assessed his total income during this period at a staggering Rs 110,412,68,85,303 (Over Rs 1.1 lakh crore). On the basis of the above assessment, the department demanded a tax of approximately Rs 34,000 crores. The assessment made by the IT became one of the grounds for the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to allege money laundering by Khan.
In March 2011, ED arrested Khan under the provisions of PMLA. At that time, it also raided the Noida house of Philip Anandraj and the house of Kashinath Tapuriah. Tapuriah too was arrested later and was made a co-accused in the case. In August 2017 Tapuriah passed away in Kolkata. Khan was in Arthur Road jail for four years and eight months in judicial custody. He was granted bail in August 2015 and has been living in Pune since then.
How have the cases progressed and what happens now?
The two separate ED cases filed in 2011 and 2018 are currently before a Special court for cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in Mumbai. The ED has filed chargesheets in both these cases. On Tuesday, the charges were framed in the 2011 case to which Khan pleaded not guilty through video conferencing. This marks the beginning of the trial
An ED chargesheet in one of the cases had 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 in the name of a front company.’ The museum and the Hyderabad police, however, have subsequently clarified that no such diamond was stolen from there.
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Meanwhile, in July 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation also filed a case against Khan and some unidentified government officials for criminal conspiracy and corruption. Khan has been interrogated in the case a few times by the CBI. He is also an accused in a case in Pune where he is accused of possessing forged passports. A chargesheet has been filed in the case but the trial is yet to begin.
Speaking to Express, Khan’s counsel Prashant Patil said, “The charges against Mr Hasan Ali Khan are framed for an alleged amount of 1.1 lakh crores. However, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has adjudicated the assessment of Mr Khan for 2001 to 2007-08. Post the said adjudication the ITAT has specifically rejected the alleged income of Mr Khan and his lability of Rs 34,000 crores. As per the 2016 order, the said among has now been confined by ITAT toa meagre income of around Rs 10 crores and tax liability of Rs 3-4 crores. As a counsel of Mr Khan it would be hopeful to expect a fair and expeditious trial by ED on a day to day basis. If this case was of such a sensitive nature, then why has ED not conducted the trial since 2011 till date? Only a trial shall expose the concocted stories frames against Mr Khan. It is not fair to make allegations against an innocent man and then shy away from producing evidence.”
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