A special court in New Delhi has confirmed an Enforcement Directorate (ED) order to attach a farmhouse in connection with its money laundering probe against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his family. The central probe agency had attached the property in March in upmarket south Delhi’s area of Dera Mandi near Mehrauli, alleging it was purchased “out of money laundered through shell firms”.
The agency had issued a provisional attachment order for the farmhouse under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). It had said while the book value of the asset is Rs 6.61 crore, its market value is Rs 27.29 crore, as per a valuation done by the Income Tax Department.
A recent order of Tushar V Shah, Member (Law), Adjudicating Authority of PMLA, said the asset was “involved in money laundering”. “I, therefore, hereby confirm the attachment of the properties made under sub-section (1) of Section 5 of PMLA,” the order said.
“…the said attachment shall continue during the pendency of the proceedings relating to offence under the PMLA…,” it said confirming the ED order of March 31.
The farmhouse, the ED had said, is in the name of Ms Maple Destination and Dreambuild Private Limited, a firm in which Singh’s son Vikramaditya is a major shareholder and his daughter Aprajita a minor shareholder.
Both are also listed as the directors of the firm, it had said.
The ED had said its probe found that “illicit money of Singh was also invested in purchase” of the immovable asset. “The farmhouse was purchased for an amount of Rs 1.20 crore as per registry value. The payment was made by two cheques of Rs 15 lakh each (Rs 30 lakh) and two cheques of Rs 45 lakh each (Rs 90 lakh).
“The investigation further revealed that a sum of Rs 5.41 crore was paid in cash to purchase the farmhouse. Investigation…revealed that the funds had been provided through Vakamulla Chandrashekar, Promoter/Director of Tarini Group of Companies, engaged in hydro power projects,” the agency had said.
It said that “incidentally Chandrashekar’s company was awarded Saikothi plant in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh” and the cheque amount for purchase of the farmhouse was given from his personal bank accounts. “He (Chandrashekar’s) had given a total of Rs 5.9 crore to Singh and family members out of which Rs 90 lakh was transferred from the account of Singh to his son Vikramaditya which was ultimately utilised for purchase of farmhouse by Ms Maple Destinations and Dreambuild Private Limited,” it had alleged.
The funds provided by Chandrashekar were “routed through certain paper entities” or shell firms, the ED said in its attachment order. “The directorate (ED) on investigating these firms came to the conclusion that these firms were paper concerns or shell companies opened in name of employees with meagre salary primarily for providing accommodation entries and the addresses of the firms were found fake.
“It was also revealed that even a fake bank account was opened in name of one Gursharan Singh at HDFC Bank and was used to provide entry to Chandrashekar. Another firm Ms Jai Bharat Foods was utilised for showing fake agricultural income against fake bills,” it had said.
The ED had filed a criminal case under the PMLA against the 82-year-old Congress leader and others in 2015, based on a CBI FIR.
The CBI has also filed a charge sheet against Singh, a six-time chief minister, his wife and others for allegedly amassing assets worth around Rs 10 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income.
An attachment order issued by the ED under the PMLA is aimed to deprive the accused from taking benefits of his or her ill-gotten wealth and it can be challenged before the PMLA Authority within 180 days.