Goods and properties worth around Rs 3,800 crore have been seized in Nirav Modi-Choksi case: Karnal Singh.
In the last four years, especially after the November 2016 demonetisation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has emerged as the most proactive government agency to tackle the corrupt and unearth black money in India. Karnal Singh, 1984 batch IPS officer, who has been heading the ED since August 2015, spoke to The Sunday Guardian on various issues, including the recent controversy involving one of his junior colleagues, on Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and other political leaders.
Singh has also worked in various positions in Delhi Police, including heading the Delhi Police’s Special Cell, during which he and his team cracked the 2005 Delhi blasts case, the 2001 Parliament attack case and the 2008 Delhi serial blasts case. Excerpts:
Q: I will start with the topic of Rajeshwar Singh (who is a Joint Director in ED). He had recently written a letter stating that he is being victimised by certain individuals because he is going after the corrupt. Subsequently, the ED released a press note saying that the organisation stands with his officer. How do you see the whole development?
A: We did what is the right thing (coming out in support of Rajeshwar Singh). In our job, various things happen. The Investigating Officer (IO) has to keep his cool and carry on with his work. The incident that is mentioned in the RAW report (the report, which was submitted in the Supreme Court, said that Rajeshwar Singh got calls from Dubai) was shared with other agencies at that time and it had led to a major operation from our end.
Q: Which specific operation?
A: I cannot share the details of it.
Q: It has been more than two years since Vijay Mallya left India. Has the ED been able to gather enough evidence against him which would debunk his claim that he is being targeted for political reasons?
A: We have collected enough evidence in the case. Now it is all about the process, the appreciation of the evidence and I can say that things are moving in a timebound manner. We are very hopeful of reaching the intended conclusion. The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018 (which was recently passed in Parliament) is a very strong Act and we have already moved court to attach Mallya’s property, the hearing for which is on 27 August.
Q: Are you happy with the way the investigation in the Aircel- Maxis money laundering case is moving? Is the agency experiencing any kind of pressure considering the individuals involved in the case (former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is one of the accused)?
A: There is no pressure of any kind from anyone. Our team is working very hard. Both the CBI and ED are working in close coordination in the case. We are collecting more evidence as the investigation is moving ahead.
Q: There is a perception that the ED has not been able to move against the accused in the Narada, Saradha scams because of political reasons. This perception has become strong since no action has been taken against these cases that pre-date the NDA era.
A: Initially, there were some problems when the case was with the state police. However, now it is with the CBI and things are improving. There is no political pressure on us of any kind to go either soft or to go after anyone without any substantial proof.
Q: Why has there been no credible action against Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi? The ED had declared that it had seized goods worth thousands of crores of rupees, but on revaluation it was found that they were not worth more than a few crores?
A: We have moved very swiftly against them; around Rs 3,800 crore worth goods and properties (belonging to them) have been seized. We have also moved the special court established under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to seize their assets. Two SEZs, in Hyderabad and Gujarat, have been attached. We have also found properties in foreign countries which too will be seized after due process.
Q: In the VVIP helicopter scam, politicians, apart from defence officials and bureaucrats, were stated to be involved. Almost five years have passed. Has the ED found the involvement of any political entity?
A: Some delay is happening because the investigation is also taking place outside India. Issues like getting hold of the details of the bank records, interrogation reports, are taking time.
Letter rogatories have been sent to multiple countries; we have received replies from all of them except Dubai and Mauritius. We are trying to find out the ultimate beneficiaries of this deal.
Q: What is the status of the investigation in the cases involving former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and his relatives? Bihar-based BJP leaders say that the agencies are not moving ahead in the cases involving the Lalu family.
A: It will be wrong to say that we are not moving ahead. Properties belonging to Delight marketing have been attached. A farmhouse belonging to Misa Bharti (Lalu’s daughter) has already been seized.
The prosecution complaint (equivalent to a charge-sheet in police parlance) will be filed by us within 15 days. The investigation from our side is almost completed. We are waiting for the CBI to file the charge-sheet.