YThe Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a plea filed by former Aam Aadmi Party Councillor Tahir Hussain challenging charges framed against him in a money laundering case registered in connection with the North East Delhi riots of 2020.
Justice Anu Malhotra observed that the alleged commission of a conspiracy "even for the purpose of GST violation in order to avail money" through criminal conspiracy for using proceeds of crime to commit 2020 riots and to cause unrest, prima facie falls within the ambit of commission of a scheduled offence under PMLA.
"Apparently thus, the agreement to enter into an agreement to commit a crime, falls within the ambit of Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 falling thus, within the ambit of a scheduled offence," the court added.
Furthermore, it was observed that the argument that there were no proceeds of crime attached will not be relevant as hatching a criminal conspiracy for violation of tax or laws for subsequent use of untainted money for funding riots would fall within the domain of commission of a criminal conspiracy, which is a standalone scheduled offence under PMLA.
"In the circumstances, it is held that there is no infirmity in the impugned order dated 03.11.2022 of the learned Trial Court….," the court held.
The court had heard Advocate Naveen Malhotra, who represented Tahir Hussain, and Zoheb Hossain, the counsel of Enforcement Directorate.
The charges against Tahir Hussain were framed earlier this month by the city's Karkardooma Court under Section 3, which is punishable under Section 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
Hussain's counsel had submitted that while earning money out of scheduled offences is a core requirement under PMLA, no such ingredient was met in the matter.
The counsel also said that no property or proceeds of crime was seized from Hussain which could justify the framing of charges against him for money laundering.
On the other hand, the ED had argued that bank accounts allegedly used by Hussain will be property within the meaning of section 8(5) of the PMLA, adding that such property is also liable to be confiscated.
ED had further submitted that there was an alleged conspiracy to fund the riots in which fake bills were prepared and cash was later given to various persons to commit the offences.
It was also argued that there was enough material to show that property and proceeds of crime were used in furtherance of a larger conspiracy to fund the riots.
According to the Enforcement Directorate, Hussain "hatched a conspiracy with his associates to fraudulently withdraw money" from the accounts of certain companies — M/s. Show Effect Advertisement Pvt. Ltd. (SEAPL), M/s. Essence Cellcom Pvt. Ltd. (ECPL) and M/s. Essence Global Services Pvt. Ltd. (EGSPL), "owned and controlled" by him "through bogus and malafide transactions with bogus entry operator on the strength of fake bills".
The ED's case is that he was the ultimate beneficiary of laundered money and used it during the riots in North- East Delhi in February 2020.
The PMLA case was registered on the basis of the three FIRs lodged in relation to the riots - FIR No. 59/2020, FIR No. 65/2020 and FIR No. 88/2020.
While framing charges, the trial court observed that ED's complaint "made out a case" of Hussain working in conspiracy with Amit Gupta in generating proceeds of crime which was then put to use by the former for the "purpose of riots".
Perusing the contents of the complaint, accompanying documents and statements of witnesses, the trial court had observed that prima facie Hussain, while acting in conspiracy, engaged in the offence of money laundering.
The proceeds of crime generated in the conspiracy was put to use for riots, the judge added.