NEW DELHI (TIP): The Enforcement Directorate has busted a hawala network in Ahmedabad which had allegedly laundered more than Rs 10,000 crore through a private bank in Surat to Dubai and Hong Kong.
The ED has registered a case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and arrested five accused. The agency is on the trail of the network’s kingpin who has been evading arrest for the past eight months.
A Mumbai-based bullion trader has been identified as the kingpin of the hawala network that had deposited Rs 10,000 crore in cash in two Surat branches of a private bank in December 2013 and January 2014.
This was immediately transferred to a public sector bank’s overseas branch in Dubai and in a Hong Kong branch of a foreign bank. The money was later transferred to several beneficiaries from those foreign accounts.
The network was busted by the Ahmedabad unit of the ED which is investigating the case. A source said the case was also on the radar of India’s external intelligence agency RAW. The huge cash transfer to foreign accounts is believed to be illicit money of some politicians and bureaucrats.
The agency has traced one transaction to a Chennai company which was also accused in the 2G spectrum scam and was linked to a former telecom minister.
A senior officer associated with the probe said the agency discovered forged customs invoices from the accused. “This time, they had forged documents which revealed dates of 2011 and payments made two years later in 2013 and 2014 which alerted us,” he said.
The probe revealed that two accused based in Gujarat had been running dummy companies and forging documents of customs department and routing cash through the banking channels to Dubai and Hong Kong.
The trail further led to the kingpin based in Mumbai. The ED arrested two of his nephews — one based in Surat and the other operating dummy companies in Dubai.
The agency is probing the Mumbai kingpin’s association with some big politicians from Maharashtra and is likely to make some more arrests in the coming weeks.