A Delhi court on Wednesday sent Avantha Group promoter Gautam Thapar to one-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a Rs 500 crore money laundering case. Thapar was arrested on Tuesday night after the agency carried out raids against him and his linked businesses in Delhi and Mumbai.
The agency told Special Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal in a hearing held through video conferencing that investigation revealed that around Rs 500 crore worth proceeds of crime were laundered through Oyster Buildwell Pvt Ltd (OBPL), Jhabua Power Limited (JPL), Jhabua Power Investment Ltd. (JPIL), Avantha Power & Infrastructure Ltd (APIL), Avantha Realty Ltd. (ARL) etc. which were being controlled and beneficially owned directly or indirectly by Thapar.
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The probe revealed that sham agreements were made by these entities to fraudulently obtain huge amount running into more than 500 Crores from Yes Bank and further by different modes of layering the tainted amount was laundered and the loan account thus turned NPA causing a loss of huge public money, it said.
While seeking his 14-day custody, the ED told the court that there were material evidence and reasons to believe that Thapar was guilty of offence of money laundering, and that he was involved in the laundering of proceeds of crime and had been involved in projecting the proceeds of crime as untainted. Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for the accused, opposed ED's remand application and said that his client was in fact the victim in the matter and that the entire transaction had taken place in view of the intention of Yes Bank to have evergreening of loans.
The court sent the accused to one-day ED custody and directed the agency to produce him before it on Thursday, when it will hear the arguments on his further custody. Advocates Sandeep Kapur and Niharika Karanjawala of Karanjawala & Co, also appeared for the accused.
In its remand application, the agency said that the accused did not cooperate with the investigation and deliberately failed to divulge the crucial facts regarding his involvement in the instant loan, his coordination and involvement with earlier Yes Bank management, the details of overseas companies/ trusts/ bank accounts/ properties owned by him and his family which are actually required for further investigation. The case is having international ramifications involving proceeds of crime stashed outside the country in form of immovable properties and bank accounts which is to be unearthed, it said.
The custodial interrogation of the Gautam Thapar is essential to further determine the role of various other persons who facilitated the offence of money laundering and how/ by whom the funds were placed, layered and integrated into the system, to determine the entire modus operandi, the ED said. The agency further said that Thapar's custodial interrogation was essential to establish the money trail or end-use of the initially taken loan which was re-paid through the instant fraudulently obtained loan from Yes Bank.
It said that Thapar was to be confronted with the material/evidence on record as it would enable the investigating agency to ascertain and identify the funds laundered and parked in various entities. The ED has been probing an alleged transaction between his company Avantha Realty, Yes Bank co-founder Rana Kapoor and his wife, who are already being investigated under the PMLA by the agency.
The case of money laundering was filed by the ED after taking cognisance of an FIR lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). "The (CBI) FIR alleges that Rana Kapoor, then MD and CEO of Yes Bank Limited, obtained illegal gratification in the form of a property in a prime location in Delhi at much less than the realisable market value belonging to Avantha Reality Ltd for sanction of a loan to ARL and for extending concessions, relaxations and waivers in the already existing credit facilities provided to Avantha Group companies and for advancing new and additional loans to them by Yes Bank Ltd," the ED had said earlier.
CBI had last year booked Kapoor and his wife Bindu for allegedly obtaining a bribe of Rs 307 crore through the purchase of a bungalow in a tony Delhi area from a realty firm at half the market price and facilitating around Rs 1,900 crore bank loans to it in return, the agency said. The CBI suspected that the discounted transaction for the 1.2 acre-bungalow on Amrita Shergill Marg in Delhi was a gratification to Kapoor through the company Bliss Abode Pvt Ltd in return for non-realisation of over Rs 1,900 crore in loans from Yes Bank to Gautam Thapar-promoted Avantha Realty and group companies, it said.