Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Hotels and three companies in Mumbai. Property in Kolkata. A hotel in Thailand. A coalmine in Liberia.
These are some of the assets India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) said it has unearthed among illegal foreign-exchange transactions and assets allegedly worth Rs 4,000-crore — almost a fifth of the annual budget of the state he once ruled, Jharkhand — of labourer-turned-chief minister Madhu Koda (38).
As nationwide raids by the ED, which probes foreign-exchange violations, and the Income Tax (I-T) department continued for the third day on Monday, investigators interrogated Koda on camera. The I-T department also sent notices to six of Koda’s close associates, based variously in Jharkhand, Mumbai and Delhi to appear before the Additional Director (Investigation) in Ranchi on November 6 and explain “certain transactions and events.”
A labourer who worked on window grills and in iron ore mines till the 1990s, Koda could be not contacted on Monday. His mobile phone was switched off. None of his associates, three former ministers and five others being investigated, were available for comment.
Koda’s lawyer Rahul Kumar on Monday told HT the I-T department had not told him what had been seized. “Unless we get a seizure list, it won’t be proper to comment on the ongoing searches,” said Kumar.
Kumar said he went to Koda’s residence, “but the IT officials, searching Koda’s residence, didn’t allow me to meet Koda”.
“They told me to come after the searches end,” said Kumar. Kumar said Koda had replied to notices served against him by the IT authorities. The ED has not issued any notice to Koda after they charged him with money laundering.
Koda became chief minister at age 35. In 2005, his declaration to the Election Commission listed an asset total of Rs 12 lakh.
“Mumbai was used as the most preferred destination by them (Koda and his associates) to stash away Koda’s ill-gotten wealth to the UAE, Dubai, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc through the hawala (illegal foreign-exchange transfers) channel,” said a highly placed source in the ED, requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“It’s a huge exercise,” the source said. “Since the raids were spread over 70 premises in nine cities of India, we are still tabulating the information to arrive at the exact figure.”
The investment records were seized during raids jointly conducted by the Income Tax (IT) department and the ED in 70 premises across Mumbai, Kolkata, Jamshedpur, Chaibasa, Patna, Ranchi, Lucknow, Ghaziabad and Delhi last week.
On Monday, IT and ED detectives searched seven premises of Koda and his associates in Jamshedpur and Ranchi. Most investments, according to ED and IT officials, are in the name of Koda’s main associates: Vinod Sinha of Chaibasa (Jharkhand) and Sanjay Chaudhary of Jamshedpur (Jharkhand).
The ED has already charged Koda with investing US $1.7 million (nearly Rs 8.5 crore) in a coalmine in Liberia through a Russian middleman, identified only as Rainto.
Besides Thailand, the ED said it has evidence of Koda’s alleged investment in buying hotels and companies in Indonesia, Singapore, Dubai and Liberia.
In Ranchi, IT officials quizzing Koda on camera on Monday claimed they had discovered documents of “ill-gotten transactions” worth more than Rs 2,200 crore.
The IT department has frozen over 70 bank accounts and lockers and has started the process to freeze bank accounts of Sinha and Chaudhary as well.
Besides property and investment details, officials said they had seized jewellery worth
Rs 2 crore and Rs 2.7 crore in cash.
They estimate the amount sent abroad through hawala could be more than Rs 2,500 crore. These figures could not be independently verified.
A major part of the investment was alleged to have been made when Koda was the CM of Jharkhand from September 2006 to August 2008.
On October 9, the ED had registered a case against Koda, now an independent member of parliament (MP) from Singhbhum, three former ministers Kamlesh Singh, Bhanu Pratap Shahi and Bandhu Tirkey and five others in a Ranchi court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
“Since Koda has been charged under this Act, the onus is on him to prove the charges wrong,” an ED official said.