New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday rejected a petition by former AAP leader Tahir Hussain challenging the framing of money laundering charges against him in connection with the 2020 northeast Delhi riots. Justice Anu Malhotra held there is no infirmity in the trial court order which said a prima facie case is made out against Hussain under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Hussain’s petition challenged the trial court’s November 3 order by which charges for the alleged offence under Sections 3 (offence of money laundering) and 4 (punishment for the offence of money laundering) of the PMLA were framed against him.
Justice Malhotra had reserved the verdict on the petition on November 15. The high court noted the statements of witnesses prima facie indicate the alleged complicity of the petitioner with persons to cause an illegal act to be done through illegal means, which falls within the ambit of section 120A (criminal conspiracy) of IPC, a scheduled offence under PMLA.
“The petitioner allegedly acted prima facie in conspiracy and engaged in money laundering with the proceeds of crime generated having been put to use for riots by way of fraudulently withdrawing money from the accounts of companies owned or controlled by him through bogus and malafide transactions with bogus entry operators on the strength of fake bills,” the court said in its 100-page order.
The court said Hussain “obtained property as the result of the criminal activity relatable to the scheduled offence as the proceeds of crime to make him prima facie culpable under Section 3 of the PMLA, 2002”.
In response to Hussain’s contention that no charges could be framed against him since the investigation is yet to be completed, the court said a complaint filed by the ED shall be deemed to include any subsequent complaint in respect of further investigation that may be conducted.
“The petition and the accompanying application are thus declined,” ordered the court.
Hussain argued before the high court that no property or proceeds of crime was seized from him to justify framing of charges under the anti-money laundering law.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) opposed his challenge, contending Hussain was part of a conspiracy to fund the riots by using the proceeds of crime.
The trial court had said in its order that prima facie Hussain conspired to engage in money laundering and the proceeds generated from crime were used for the riots. The agency claimed Hussain had paid for engineering the riots and that there was a criminal conspiracy to fund the communal conflagration.
According to the ED complaint, Hussain fraudulently withdrew money from the bank accounts of companies owned or controlled by him through bogus entry operators on the strength of fake bills. Hussain was the ultimate beneficiary of the laundered money and the funds obtained through criminal conspiracy were put to use during the riots in February 2020, the ED complaint alleged.
Delhi Police have registered three FIRs against Hussain and others under various sections of the Indian Penal Code in connection with the riots.
Based on the FIRs, inquiries were initiated and the ED registered an ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) on March 9, 2020.