ED Says Unitech Owners Operating From Tihar, SC Orders Move to Mumbai Jail
Sanjay and Ajay Chandra were instructing their officials and disposing of their properties from inside the jail.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) informed the Supreme Court on Thursday, 26 August, of a secret underground office being operated by Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra in Tihar Jail, which his sons, Sanjay and Ajay, visited when they were on parole or bail.
After the ED's report of alleged collusion with jail authorities, the top court ordered the immediate transfer of Sanjay and Ajay Chandra from Tihar Jail to Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail and Taloja Central Jail.
ED has been investigating money laundering charges against the Chandras and Unitech Ltd. However, it has now found out that both Sanjay and Ajay had been freely communicating, instructing their officials and disposing of their properties from inside the jail, rendering the judicial custody useless.
Appearing for the ED, Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan told a bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and MR Shah that officials have been deputed outside the jail in order to give instructions, news agency PTI reported.
Divan told the bench, "We have recovered hundreds of original sale deeds from that office, hundreds of digital signatures and several computers with sensitive data with regards to their properties in India and abroad," PTI reported.
What's the Case?
One complaint filed in 2015, which was later joined by 173 others by homebuyers of Unitech projects – 'Wild Flower Country' and 'Anthea Project' – in Gurugram, led to a criminal case against Unitech Ltd.
Sanjay and Ajay have been accused of allegedly siphoning homebuyers' money. They had been asked by the top court in its October 2017 order to deposit Rs 750 crore with the apex court registry by 31 December 2017.
Taking into consideration the significant events that had taken place since the top court’s October 2017 order, the court had directed a forensic audit to be conducted by Grant Thornton.
The forensic audit report in 2018 had submitted that Unitech Ltd received around Rs 14,270 crore from 29,800 home buyers from 2006-2014 and around Rs 1,805 crore from six financial institutions for the construction of 74 projects, PTI reported.
Intricate Web of Money Trail
Divan informed the Supreme Court that the probe agency submitted two status reports in sealed cover to the court, while Unitech Ltd properties worth Rs 600 crore both in India and abroad were provisionally attached.
Highlighting the problems currently being faced in the investigation, she pointed out that the agency has found a very intricate web of money trail through shell companies and the properties are being disposed of in real time, PTI reported.
“They are freely communicating and passing on instructions with the help of people deputed outside the jail premises. ED found that they even tried to influence a ‘dummy director’ when he was being interrogated by the agency.”Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, as quoted by PTI.
Moreover, the Chandras received bail a few times over the years.
On 4 June, the top court had granted 15-day interim bail to Sanjay for him to attend the last rites of his father-in-law, after which he had surrendered.
On 14 August last year, the top court had dismissed the bail plea of Sanjay, who had been granted interim bail for 30 days on "humanitarian grounds" only a month earlier, as both his parents had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Chandras have claimed that since they deposited an amount in excess of Rs 750 crore and complied with the court's conditions, they be granted regular bail.
Chairman and Managing Director
As a relief to over 11,000 home buyers of Unitech, the top court had, on 20 January 2020, allowed the Centre to take total management control of the realty firm and appoint a new board of nominee directors.
Haryana cadre IAS officer Yudvir Singh Malik had been approved by the apex court as chairman and managing director (CMD) of the new board while the existing board of company directors remained superseded.
(With inputs from PTI)
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