Pune: Hasan Ali Khan, the Pune stud farm owner facing charges of huge money laundering and tax evasion, was taken into custody by the Enforcement Directorate after a day-long search of his premises by its officials on Monday.
About a dozen ED officials from Mumbai came down to Pune to search Khan premises in posh Koregaon Park area, a little distance away from the landmark German Bakery. Khan was picked up in the afternoon and driven away, presumably to Mumbai, for interrogation.
There was no official word from the ED and media persons waiting outside Khan’s residence were not briefed about the operations.
Clad in white kurta and wearing sunglasses, Khan was seen inside a black Mercedes that left the Tulip bungalow located in Valentine Residential Society escorted by ED sleuths in two cars.
Khan’s detention came a day before the Supreme Court’s March 8 deadline to the government to inform it how it proposed to tackle black money hoarders.
Meanwhile, his lawyer RK Gaur said Khan has not been detained and that he was being taken to the ED’s office as part of a “routine investigation”.
“Hasan Ali Khan has not been detained till now. He has been taken to the investigative agency’s office. This is a routine investigation. It happens in all cases. The ED searched his premises and now has taken him to its office,” he Gaur said.
Asked if there was any link between Supreme Court’s remarks about the government’s failure to ensure Khan’s custodial interrogation and his detention, Gaur said, “SC has not directed anything. There must have been some remarks but no direction.”
Gaur said Khan had not stashed any money in the Swiss banks. “There is no black money lying anywhere. Yes, there is an allegation. Everything has been accounted for. There is no such amount (USD 8 billion) lying in UBS and UBS has also said they have no relationship (with Khan),” he said.
About the Rs 40,000 crore penalty that the Income Tax authorities plan to recover from Khan for tax evasion, he said, there was no evidence of him having stashed away such huge amounts to warrant the penalty.
Khan, who is also a real estate consultant, was under the scanner for suspected money laundering and for allegedly transferring cash and valuable assets outside the country by unlawful means with the help of foreign nationals.
The previous searches at Khan’s Koregaon home were in January 2007 when the Income Tax department had raided the premises.
Khan had appeared before I-T authorities in Mumbai on February 18 apparently in connection with notices issued to him on December 31, 2008, over alleged tax evasions in connection with undisclosed funds in several foreign bank accounts, including USD 8 billion in an account in the Zurich branch of UBS. The UBS had however denied any business relationship with him.
Tax enforcement agencies are now trying to locate properties of Khan abroad which could be attached or auctioned to extract from him a huge tax liability to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore.
The Supreme Court while lambasting the Centre last Thursday for not having the “will power” to act against black money hoarders asked why Khan and others were not subjected to custodial interrogation despite the probe agencies possessing sufficient material.
“What the hell is going on in this country,” the court had asked, observing that the alleged offenders were a “pampered lot”.
Expressing strong displeasure at the manner in which Khan and other alleged offenders were given repeated opportunities for adjournments by the ED, the court said the authorities were “hoodwinking” everybody and wondered whether the same leniency would have been extended to other petty offenders.
The Court also indicated that if the government fails to act, it would be compelled to appoint a special officer for supervising the probe against the offenders.
The bench had granted time till March eight to the Centre to come out with its stand failing which it would be constrained to pass appropriate orders.
The ED last Friday also issued a ‘Look Out Circular’ at all airports against Khan to ensure he does not flee the country.