An amount of ₹ 18,000 crore has been returned to banks from fugitive tycoons Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, the government has told the Supreme Court, which is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the wide scope of powers given to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to money laundering cases.
Over the last weeks, several senior advocates, including Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Mukul Rohatgi have made submissions before the Supreme Court on potential misuse of the recent amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act or PMLA.
The law has been criticised over a range of issues — stringent bail conditions, non-communication of grounds of arrest, arrest of persons without supply of ECIR (parallel to a First Information Report filed by the police), the broadening of the definition of money laundering, proceeds of crime, and statements given by accused during investigation made admissible as evidence during trial.
A very small number of cases are being taken up for investigation under the PMLA in India, compared to the situation abroad, the Centre told a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar.
As examples, the Centre cited the UK, where 7,900 cases have been filed under the Money Laundering Act in a year, the US (1,532), China (4,691), Austria (1,036), Hongkong (1,823), Belgium (1,862) and Russia (2,764).
In India, 4,700 PMLA cases are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the total proceeds of crimes pending before the court amounts to ₹ 67,000 crore, the Centre said.
The number of cases taken up for investigation each year in the last 5 years varies from 111 cases in 2015-16 to 981 in 2020-21, the Centre said. Over the last five years (2016-17 to 2020-21), 33 lakh FIRs have been filed for such offences. But only 2,086 cases were taken up for investigation, the Centre said.