Twenty Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers posted in Lucknow have tested negative for coronavirus after their samples were collected in the wake of an arrested accused in the Amrapali money laundering case being infected with the disease, officials said on Wednesday. The central probe agency's zonal office at Ashok Marg in Uttar Pradesh's capital city was thoroughly sanitised and sealed after Anil Mittal, the statutory auditor of Amrapali Group of companies, tested positive for the pandemic last week.
He was arrested and produced before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Lucknow on June 16. He is reported to have contracted the disease while in ED custody. Mittal was subsequently admitted to the KGMU hospital in Lucknow and has been sent to jail after recovery from the disease.
Rajeshwar Singh, Joint Director of ED's Lucknow zone, confirmed the development and said all 20 officers of his unit have tested negative for COVID-19 and they have resumed office. "The directorate has started functioning in full swing with all prescribed precautions and hygiene," another officer said.
He added that those officers, who came in direct contact of accused Anil Mittal, had their samples taken for the new coronavirus. The agency will soon approach the court seeking its permission to now grill Mittal and record his statement under the PMLA as he has "a crucial role in laundering of Amrapali funds", ED sources said. The agency had recently attached, as part of an order issued under the PMLA, more than Rs 187 crore funds of JP Morgan India Pvt Ltd kept in a bank branch in Mumbai in this case that is being monitored by the Supreme Court.
The court later directed JP Morgan to transfer over Rs 140 crore plus interest from its bank accounts, that have been recently attached by the ED, to the escrow account maintained by the UCO bank saying this money would be used for completing the pending projects of Amrapali Group. The ED is investigating this case on charges of money laundering and alleged diversion of crores of rupees of home buyers who wanted to purchase a house in the Amrapali Group's real estate projects.
The apex court, which is monitoring this case, had in December last year directed the ED to take charge of the investigation and asked Joint Director Singh to take action against JP Morgan under the anti-money laundering law and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and apprise it on a regular basis. It has also initiated detailed interrogation of JP Morgan India board members including a Chinese national along with Amrapali executive.
The agency is also investigating the role of bank officials in granting loans on mortgaged assets, the role of Noida and Greater Noida authority officials in renewing leases and award of new projects to the group despite pending land dues and lease rentals that are stated to be over Rs 5,000 crore, the second official quoted above said. It is also probing if some flats were sold to officials at lower prices by taking cash payments, bogus and inflated purchases, he said.
"Names of few officials who have benefitted has come to light during investigation," he said. In an affidavit submitted to the court recently, the ED has said that employees of JP Morgan India Ltd, who were on the board of various Amrapali real estate group companies, "laundered" deposits worth Rs 187 crore of home buyers and "diverted" them to the multi-national financial advisory firm's entities based in Mauritius and Singapore by undertaking sham transactions and using shell companies.