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Stop copy paste, do original probe: ED to officials

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New Delhi, Oct 3, 2019-

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), Indias federal financial investigative agency, has issued instructions to its investigators to use original content of its findings instead of relying on probes conducted by other agencies, sources in the agency said on Thursday.

The move came in the back drop of infamous Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) case in which agency was pulled up by the tribunal for doing shoddy work, especially “copy and paste” from the findings of other federal agency.

The case, which came on September 11, 2019 before tribunal, was found to be a job of copy and paste rather than original investigation.

The tribunal directed the agency to “apply independent mind” during probe of any case.

Annoyed with the poor approach of the agency, the appellate tribunal’s chairman Justice Manmohan Singh and Member G.C. Mishra had set-aside an order of the adjudicating authority allowing the ED to attach the “property” of Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd.

The attachment was initiated against Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd in connection with the scam allegedly involving the company in its deal with Antrix Corporation Ltd, a commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The tribunal said: “It is evident that the PAO (Provisional Attachment Order), the Original Complaint and the Impugned Order have simply copy pasted the contents of the CBI charge sheet.

“Shockingly, the contents of these documents are almost identical and which evidences that the Respondent No.1 (Deputy Director, Directorate of Enforcement, Bangalore), the author of the PAO and Original Complaint and the AA (Adjudicating Authority)i.e. the author of the Impugned Order, has not applied his mind,” the order stated.

The tribunal also observed that person who passed the order to attach the properties was not the judicial member. “The order was passed in very casual manner. In serious and complicated issues cut paste of pleadings and documents is not acceptable,” stressed the Tribunal bench.

The bench has granted Adjudicating Authority six months time from October 21, 2019 to decide the matter by the Member (Law) after hearing both side — ED and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd.

The financial investigation agency came under tribunal wrath after Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd submitted that the impugned order to attach properties was passed in “complete violation of the statutory provisions”.

It is found that ED has attached Proceeds of Crime amounting to Rs 79.76 crore under provisional attachment order dated February 27, 2017. After completing the formalities, the provisional attachment order was confirmed by the impugned order dated October 11, 2017.

Further, the prosecution complaint for offence of money laundering was filed against Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd and nine others before the City Civil and Sessions Judge and Special Court on July 12, 2018.

The Tribunal found — provisional attachment, impugned order and prosecution complaint — were based on CBI charge sheet.

The CBI’s anti-corruption unit on March 16, 2015 had registered a case for criminal misconduct, criminal conspiracy and cheating against K.R. Sridhara Murthi, then ED of Antrix Corporation Ltd, R. Vishwanathan, Advisor to Forge Advisors, LLC, USA, MG Chandrashekhar, ex-ISRO Official and managing director and representative of Forge Advisors LLC, USA, Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd and unknown public servants of Antrix Corporation Ltd and ISRO, Department of Space.

The CBI had probed an alleged Rs 578-crore “wrongful” gain to Devas by Antrix.

It is alleged that the accused people had entered into a criminal conspiracy and the government officials abused their position by favouring Devas by giving them rights for delivery of videos, multimedia and information services to mobile phones using S-Band through GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites and terrestrial systems in India.

The accused officials thus caused wrongful gain of Rs 578 crore to the private firm and its owners. The agency said that a deal between Antrix and Devas was fixed in principle in January 2005 for lease of S-Band transponders.

During probe it was found that that the agreement entered by the Devas with the Antrix was illegal as the Devas did not have any technology or ownership of intellectual property rights to deliver the services.

The CBI had filed the charge sheet in the subject case on August 11, 2016 in the case.

Subsequently in 2015, the ED filed a case investigation report (ECIR), equivalent to FIR, under PMLA and had started probe into the matter.  (Agency)

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