NSEL Scam: Real Estate, Agri Land Procured Using Investor Funds

Real estate assets, farm lands, flats and many other such high-value properties worth crores of rupees were procured by the accused by "laundering" genuine investor funds of the scam-hit National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL).

A charge-sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the alleged multi-crore financial irregularities of NSEL found that a Mumbai-based firm, one of the prime accused in the Rs 5,600-crore payment crisis scam, was deploying a clever modus operandi of "claiming the investment in real estate purchased in the name of third party as unsecured loan."

The agency which is probing the case under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) had recorded in its previous charge-sheet that the same trick was used by other accused to cheat NSEL investors by purchasing high-end vehicles, posh villas, plots, shares in beach-side hotels and vast tracts of agricultural land to perpetrate the scam.

In the latest charge-sheet filed against the firm, Aastha Minmet India Pvt Ltd, accessed by PTI, the agency said it has gathered evidence which reveals "that the funds received from the settlement accounts with NSEL by the group were utilised for procurement of real estate, agricultural land, flats etc."

The probe agency, in January this year, attached a number of immovable assets of the firm worth Rs 15.41 crore under PMLA which aims to deprive the accused the benefits of his or her ill-gotten wealth.

The firm, however in its submissions, said it acted at all times as per the "agreement" with the NSEL and it never misrepresented the NSEL or the investors.

The agency has, after tracking the money trail, described how a business centre office in Mumbai's Lower Parel area was purchased by the firm by allegedly layering and routing the funds six times, while a farm land in Thane district was purchased after using a circuitous ten-route layer of funds transaction.

"The properties provisionally attached (by the agency) are nothing but proceeds of crime as the funds utilised to obtain the same has origin in the funds fraudulently received from NSEL," the agency said.

The ED said it found that the firm which was involved in delivery of TMT bars/rods to the designated warehouses of NSEL was doing it "just on paper" and that there were no physical stocks.

"The money which was earned illegally by committing the scheduled offences like criminal conspiracy on account of sale of TMT bars/rods which was not in existence was diverted to invest in the real estate," the ED said. The agency said the firm tried to showcase the proceeds of crime as "unsecured loan" which has been invested in real estate by the firm.

"The entire activity of the defendants (the firm) was nothing but an attempt to channelise and integrate the proceeds of crime in order to pass the slush funds as untainted," the agency said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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