Setback for ED in Sterling Biotech bank fraud case

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Appellate Tribunal has ordered release of gold coins seized by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) last year from the residence of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s close aide. The tribunal has dismissed ED’s appeal filed against a scathing order passed by the agency’s adjudicating authority last year. In its 2018 order, the adjudicating authority said, “It is on record that as a result of the search conducted by the assistant director only few gold coins have been recovered and it is not difficult to ascertain whether they can be useful in any investigation in the matter.” ED termed the gold coins as “proceeds of crime”. “However, there is no justification for it. I don’t find any justification for retention of seized gold coins as they do not carry any special marking or mention. I am also shocked to see that the application has been filed before the authority but in the three hearings conducted by it neither the applicant (ED) nor its counsel were present for replying to query or making arguments in favour of the application,” the authority had stated. ED had moved the application for confirmation of attachment of gold coins. Rebuking the agency, the authority had further said, “this indifference towards the proceedings before the authority after filing of the application is totally unjustified and ridiculous”. The authority directed ED to restore the gold coins to Sanjeev Mahajan, reportedly Ahmed Patel’s close aide. Premises of Mahajan and others were raided by the agency in connection with its money laundering probe into the Sterling Biotech bank fraud case. In its April 2018 raid, ED had seized gold coins of different weights weighing about 368 grams in total valued at Rs 11,77,600 along with jewellery jointly held by Mahajan and his wife. The agency had registered a money laundering case against the SBL group

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