The government on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that around Rs 18,000 crore has been returned to the banks in the cases relating to fugitive industrialists Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, who are facing charges of loan frauds and money laundering.
Stressing the necessity of a stringent law to deal with money laundering, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a Bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar that the total proceeds of crimes in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases pending before the Supreme Court amounted to Rs 67,000 crore.
Various companies and individuals represented by senior lawyers, including Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, Sidharth Luthra, Amit Desai, have questioned validity of stringent measures and potential misuse of the amendments to the PMLA. Critics of the PMLA have argued that that it was extremely difficult to get bail under this statute, while the actual conviction rate had remained very low.
“As on date, 4,700 cases are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the number of the cases taken up for investigation each year in the last five years varied from 111 cases in 2015-16 to 981 in 2020-21,” he said, adding that during the last five years, only 2,086 cases were taken up for investigation under the PMLA out of registration of FIRs of approximately 33 lakh for predicate offences by the police and other investigative agencies.
“Further, the efforts against money laundering have consistently advocated to include the widest range of predicate offences in the domestic laws,” he said.
The Supreme Court is hearing a large batch of more than 200 petitions that challenge various provisions of the law that is used to track the money trail in financial and other offences. Appeals have asked SC to examine the wide scope of powers available to the Enforcement Directorate for search, seizure, investigation, and attachment of proceeds of crime under the law.
On February 15, the apex court had stressed the need for a fast investigation if the Enforcement Directorate (ED) comes across an intelligence input indicating huge illegal money-laundering, observing that “cash travels faster than light”.