Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that Rs 18,000 crore have been returned to the banks in the case of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi.
Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar that the total proceeds of crimes in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases pending before the top court amounts to Rs 67,000 crore.
He further added that as on date 4,700 cases are being investigated by the Directorate of Enforcement and the number of the cases taken up for investigation each year in the last 5 years varies from 111 cases in 2015-16 to 981 in 2020-21. Mehta submitted before the bench that Rs 18,000 crore have been returned to the banks in the case of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
The top court is hearing a clutch of petitions, challenging the wide scope of powers available to the directorate of enforcement (ED) for search, seizure, investigation, and attachment of proceeds of crime under the law.
Mehta submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar, that during the last five years (2016-17 to 2020-21), only 2,086 cases were taken up for investigation under the PMLA out of registration of FIR of approximately 33 lakh for predicate offences by the police and other enforcement agencies.
He added, “very small number of cases are being taken up for investigation under the PMLA as compared to annual registration of the cases under the Money Laundering Act in the UK (7,900), the US (1,532), China (4,691), Austria (1,036), Hongkong (1,823), Belgium (1,862) and Russia (2,764)”.
Mehta emphasized that the measures against money-laundering have clearly left the embryo of drug or terrorism related offences and moved beyond the same. “Further, the efforts against money laundering have consistently advocated to include the widest range of predicate offences in the domestic laws,” he added.
Over the past few weeks, a battery of senior advocates, including Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, Sidharth Luthra, Amit Desai, and others have made submissions before the top court on various aspects related to potential misuse of PMLA provisions introduced by way of amendments to the Act.
The law has been criticised on various aspects: stringent bail conditions, non-communication of grounds of arrest, arrest of persons without supply of ECIR (akin to FIR), broad definitions of money laundering and proceeds of crime, and statements given by accused during investigation made admissible as evidence during trial.