ED finds 9 banks involved in Rs550 cr money laundering

The Enforcement Directorate has unearthed yet another trade-based money laundering case worth over Rs550 crore perpetrated by allegedly using banking channels of nine major national and international banks, with illegal remittances being sent to Hong Kong and China.

The agency has arrested a Ghaziabad-based foreign exchange operator for sending these illegal remittances to the foreign locations.

The racket was busted after the ED got leads from an accused in the Bank of Baroda money laundering case, where suspicious remittances of an estimated Rs6,000 crore came to light recently and which is being probed by multiple agencies including the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Serious Frauds Investigation Office, the Income Tax Department, besides the ED.

A fresh first information report has been lodged in connection with this case registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED has arrested Manish Jain, operating a foreign exchange dealership firm in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday night for allegedly depositing and remitting Rs505 crore between 2006 and 2010 from the Rajpur branch of the Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) in an illegal manner against imports that ''never took place''.

These remittances made through 66 accounts in the OBC branch, the ED said, were subsequently sent to an HSBC bank branch in Hong Kong and then to China in return for settling dues of various importers in India with Chinese suppliers.

 On the agency's trade-based money laundering radar, where accused traders evade customs duties and taxes to generate slush funds, are seven other banks in the national capital region like ING Vysya, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra, Indusind, Dhanlaxmi Bank, YES Bank and DCB Bank, which the agency believes have been ''misused'' by Jain and others to perpetrate this fraud.

Sources said Jain runs two firms dealing in foreign exchange in Hong Kong and he used at least 11 ''bogus firms'' to send out a total of Rs557 crore during the period concerned.

The ED suspects that Jain used these ''unaccounted'' funds to create tainted assets for himself and his associates by using fake or dummy identities and documents thereby misusing the Indian banking channels and RBI guidelines.

''The latest case bears resemblance to the Bank of Baroda case and the agency got leads about Jain and his operations on the basis of the questioning of Sanjay Aggarwal who is already under arrest in the BoB case,'' ED sources said.

In the BoB case, the agency had arrested Kamal Kalra, working with the foreign exchange division of HDFC bank, Chandan Bhatia, Gurucharan Singh Dhawan and Sanjay Aggarwal.

The ED had alleged that these accused, acting as middlemen for these illegal acts, worked for at least 15 fake companies out of the total 59 which were involved in the crime also being probed by the CBI.

The agency said Jain used to run the Ghaziabad-based forex firm between 2006 and 2014 which was later operated by Aggarwal in 2014-15.