Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan, who is facing two cases of money laundering, was questioned by officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for three consecutive days, from Thursday to Saturday, at his residence in Pune.
Prashant Patil, the lawyer representing Khan, alleged that this was “yet another episode in decade-long harassment by government agencies”.
A team from ED visited Khan’s house in Koregaon Park on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and questioned him in connection with the two money laundering cases. In one of these two cases, Khan’s wife Rheema is also an accused, among others.
Patil said, “On each day, ED officials have questioned him for a period of almost eight to 10 hours. The questioning was regarding allegations in the Special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) of 2011 case and another Enforcement Directorate case of 2017.”
Khan, now 65, had made national headlines in 2007 when news broke that he owed more than Rs 34,000 crore to the government in tax dues. The Income Tax department had assessed his income during the six-year period between 2001 and 2007 to over Rs 1.1 lakh crore, and tax liability of approximately Rs 34,000 crore. He has been accused of parking huge sums from this money in Swiss banks, using the hawala route.
Along with two cases under PMLA being probed by the ED, he is also facing a case by the Central Bureau of Investigation, wherein he has been named as a suspect, along with some government officials, for criminal conspiracy and corruption.
Khan has also been interrogated in connection with the case a few times by the CBI. He also an accused in a case in Pune, in which he is accused of possessing forged passports.
After getting wind of alleged discussions between Khan and Philip Anandraj, a Switzerland-based hotelier, about buying a hotel in Switzerland, the IT department had raided his residence in January 2007.
Among other things, the IT officials found a letter in Anandraj’s laptop, apparently issued by the Union Bank of Switzerland, mentioning that an account in Khan’s name had US$ 8 billion (about Rs 37,000 crore) in deposits.
During subsequent investigation, however, the Swiss authorities found all these documents to be fake.
After the raids, the IT department proceeded to assess Khan from 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 crore. The assessment made by the IT became one of the grounds for the money laundering cases against Khan by the Enforcement Directorate.
While the trial in the money laundering cases is yet to begin, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, in February 2016, passed an order setting aside the assessment of alleged foreign income of Khan almost in its entirety and remanded the case back to the assessing officer for fresh adjudication after undertaking further investigation in the matter.
The effect of the Tribunal’s judgment is that currently the only tax liability that stands confirmed against Khan is Rs 3-4 crore for an income of Rs 10 crore, as against the figure of Rs 34,000 crore for an income of Rs 1.1 lakh crore. Khan has also made an appeal to the PMLA court in Mumbai requesting a fast trial, saying he has been ‘in extremely poor health.’
Speaking to The Indian Express after Saturday’s questioning, his lawyer Patil said, “The latest questioning is yet another episode in decade-long harassment by the government agencies… till date, the ED and CBI have not been able to establish any prima facie case against Mr Khan. The basic question here is after 14 years of investigation, if Mr Khan is facing two cases of money laundering, then where is the money? Mr Khan has lost both his kidneys, he has lost his health, and his family is isolated and avoided by society.”
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