Criminal proceeds generated in Aircel-Maxis case involving Karti: PMLA authority

A designated PMLA authority has held that there is “considerable evidence” that criminal proceeds were generated in the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case involving Karti Chidambaram, the son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, and a firm allegedly linked to him.

Karti Chidambaram

The quasi-judicial authority had made these written observations and confirmed an ED order for attachment of Rs 1.16 crore assets in the name of Karti Chidambaram and the firm.

The Adjudicating Authority under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), in its 171-page order issued recently, said the defendants — Karti Chidambaram, a firm allegedly linked to him (advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd) and others — have “failed” to prove that these assets were not proceeds of crime of the offence of money laundering.

The central probe agency had provisionally attached fixed deposits and bank balances in the name of Karti Chidamabarm and the firm “indirectly controlled” by him in September last year and the authority recently confirmed it.

The ED has now moved to take possession of the attached bank deposits and fixed deposit–worth Rs 1,16,09,380– kept in a bank branch in Chennai.

“There is considerable evidence regarding generation of proceeds of crime by commission of the scheduled offences. There is sufficient evidence of such proceeds of crime having been utilised by the defendants (Karti and others),” the order issued by Member (Law) of the Authority, Tushar V Shah, said.

“I find that all the properties provisionally attached…are involved in money laundering,” the order, accessed by PTI, said.

The authority also upheld the probe conducted by the investigating officer of the case (ED Joint Director Rajeshwar Singh) stating that the “generation and existence of the proceeds of crime” has been shown in the attachment order.

“The belief entertained by the joint director is that of a prudent and reasonable person and is honest as based on the material before him. There is no guess work involved or mere ipse dixit (an assertion without proof) of the officer,” the authority said.

It rejected the submission of the defendants that the belief of the investigating officer that if these assets were not attached then such proceeds of crime are likely to be concealed and said this was not “baseless or ill founded.”

“So, if there are reasonable grounds to believe, whether those grounds are adequate or not, is not a matter for the court to look into.

“In the present case such rational connection exists,” it said.

The authority, the first judicial forum where the ED action in this case has been scrutinised till now, upheld the agency’s “jurisdiction to continue” with the probe in the case despite other accused being discharged by a special court last year.

“There is force in the submission made by the counsel for the complainant (ED) that the investigation is still continuing by the CBI against defendant-1 (Karti),” it said.

The ED had also alleged that Karti had “disposed” of a property in Gurgaon and had “closed certain bank accounts and attempted to close other bank accounts in order to frustrate the process of attachment” under the PMLA.

The agency is probing the Aircel-Maxis deal along with the CBI, as part of the overall investigation in the 2G spectrum allocation case, after taking cognisance of a CBI FIR.

The FIPB clearance given in this case is under the agency’s scanner. The accused can appeal against this order of the authority before the Appellate Tribunal of the act within 45 days of receipt of the order.