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RDBA, SARFAESI, IBC Doesn't Prevail Over PMLA, Must Be Harmonically Construed: Delhi HC [Read Judgment]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
3 April 2019 1:51 PM GMT
RDBA, SARFAESI, IBC Doesnt Prevail Over PMLA, Must Be Harmonically Construed: Delhi HC [Read Judgment]
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The Delhi High Court has held that the Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act, SARFAESI Act and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code does not prevail over the provisions of Prevention of Money-Laundering Act.

Justice RK Gauba observed that these laws be construed and enforced in harmony, without one being in derogation of the other with regard to the assets respecting which there is material available to show the same to have been "derived or obtained" as a result of "criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence" and consequently being "proceeds of crime", within the mischief of PMLA.

The High Court was considering appeals against appellate tribunal (as constituted under PMLA), which held that the RDBA, SARFAESI Act and IBC prevail over relevant statutory provisions of PMLA.

Disagreeing with the Tribunal's view, the bench observed that the process of attachment (leading to confiscation) of proceeds of crime under PMLA is in the nature of civil sanction which runs parallel to investigation and criminal action vis-a-vis the offence of money-laundering. The empowered enforcement officer has the authority of law in PMLA to attach not only a "tainted property" - that is to say a property acquired or obtained, directly or indirectly, from proceeds of criminal activity constituting a scheduled offence - but also any other asset or property of equivalent value of the offender of money laundering, the latter not bearing any taint but being alternative attachable property (or deemed tainted property) on account of its link or nexus with the offence (or offender) of money-laundering, the court said.

It made these observations

  • The empowered enforcement officer has the authority of law in PMLA to attach not only a "tainted property" - that is to say a property acquired or obtained, directly or indirectly, from proceeds of criminal activity constituting a scheduled offence - but also any other asset or property of equivalent value of the offender of moneylaundering, the latter not bearing any taint but being alternative attachable property (or deemed tainted property) on account of its link or nexus with the offence (or offender) of money-laundering.
  • If the "tainted property" respecting which there is evidence available to show the same to have been derived or obtained as a result of criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence is not traceable, or the same for some reason cannot be reached, or to the extent found is deficient, the empowered enforcement officer may attach any other asset ("the alternative attachable property" or "deemed tainted property") of the person accused of (or charged with) offence of money-laundering provided it is near or equivalent in value to the former, the order of confiscation being restricted to take over by the government of illicit gains of crime.
  • If the person accused of (or charged with) the offence of money-laundering objects to the attachment, his claim being that the property attached was not acquired or obtained (directly or indirectly) from criminal activity, the burden of proving facts in support of such claim is to be discharged by him.


As regards the right of a third party in the properties attached under PMLA, the bench made these observations:

  • If the property of a person other than the one accused of (or charged with) the offence of money-laundering, i.e. a third party, is sought to be attached and there is evidence available to show that such property before its acquisition was held by the person accused of money-laundering (or his abettor), or it was involved in a transaction which had interconnection with transactions concerning money-laundering, the burden of proving facts to the contrary so as to seek release of such property from attachment is on the person who so contends.
  • The charge or encumbrance of a third party in a property attached under PMLA cannot be treated or declared as "void" unless material is available to show that it was created "to defeat" the said law, such declaration rendering such property available for attachment and confiscation under PMLA, free from such encumbrance.
  • A party in order to be considered as a "bonafide third party claimant" for its claim in a property being subjected to attachment under PMLA to be entertained must show, by cogent evidence, that it had acquired interest in such property lawfully and for adequate consideration, the party itself not being privy to, or complicit in, the offence of money-laundering, and that it has made all compliances with the existing law including, if so required, by having said security interest registered.
  • An order of attachment under PMLA is not illegal only because a secured creditor has a prior secured interest (charge) in the property, within the meaning of the expressions used in RDBA and SARFAESI Act. Similarly, mere issuance of an order of attachment under PMLA does not ipso facto render illegal a prior charge or encumbrance of a secured creditor, the claim of the latter for release (or restoration) from PMLA attachment being dependent on its bonafides. (xiii). If it is shown by cogent evidence by the bonafide third party claimant (as aforesaid), staking interest in an alternative attachable property (or deemed tainted property), claiming that it had acquired the same at a time around or after the commission of the proscribed criminal activity, in order to establish a legitimate claim for its release from attachment it must additionally prove that it had taken "due diligence" (e.g. taking reasonable precautions and after due inquiry) to ensure that it was not a tainted asset and the transactions indulged in were legitimate at the time of acquisition of such interest.
  • If it is shown by cogent evidence by the bonafide third party claimant (as aforesaid), staking interest in an alternative attachable property (or deemed tainted property) claiming that it had acquired the same at a time anterior to the commission of the proscribed criminal activity, the property to the extent of such interest of the third party will not be subjected to confiscation so long as the charge or encumbrance of such third party subsists, the attachment under PMLA being valid or operative subject to satisfaction of the charge or encumbrance of such third party and restricted to such part of the value of the property as is in excess of the claim of the said third party.
  • If the bonafide third party claimant (as aforesaid) is a "secured creditor", pursuing enforcement of "security interest" in the property (secured asset) sought to be attached, it being an alternative attachable property (or deemed tainted property), it having acquired such interest from person(s) accused of (or charged with) the offence of money-laundering (or his abettor), or from any other person through such transaction (or inter-connected transactions) as involve(s) criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence, such third party (secured creditor) having initiated action in accordance with law for enforcement of such interest prior to the order of attachment under PMLA, the directions of such attachment under PMLA shall be valid and operative subject to satisfaction of the charge or encumbrance of such third party and restricted to such part of the value of the property as is in excess of the claim of the said third party.
  • In the situations covered by the preceding two subparagraphs, the bonafide third party claimant shall be accountable to the enforcement authorities for the "excess" value of the property subjected to PMLA attachment.
  • If the order confirming the attachment has attained finality, or if the order of confiscation has been passed, or if the trial of a case under Section 4 PMLA has commenced, the claim of a party asserting to have acted bonafide or having legitimate interest in the nature mentioned above will be inquired into and adjudicated upon only by the special court.

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