SC seeks report from SFIO, CBI on plea alleging laundering of over Rs 12,000 crore, Legal News, ET LegalWorld – Legal Firms

The Supreme Court directed the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and the CBI on Thursday to file status reports on the progress in their probe into the alleged laundering of more than Rs 12,000 crore of a loan advanced to Amtek Auto by 19 banks. A bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit took note of the submissions that the SFIO has initiated the probe, which is now at an “advanced stage”, and is expected to get the reports of the forensic auditors.

Asking both the central agencies to file their status reports within six weeks, indicating the status of the investigation, the bench posted the public interest litigation (PIL) matter filed by one Jaskaran Singh Chawla for further hearing on December 13.

It also directed the authorities to ensure the safety of a journalist, who was trying to unearth the truth in the matter and was allegedly followed by “unknown persons”.

At the outset, the bench took note of the submissions of the petitioner’s lawyer, Jai Anant Dehadrai, that of the 19 banks, only five have reverted to the queries of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“Only one bank — the IDFC Bank — has classified the promoters and directors of Amtek Auto Limited as fraud,” Dehadrai said.

The bench asked the probe agencies to also give reports on the version of the banks by the next date of hearing.

Senior advocate Kavin Gulati, who is assisting the bench as an amicus curiae (friend of the court), said the affidavits of the SFIO and the CBI were indicative of the fact that the estimation of the amount involved in the “fraud” was almost double than what was previously expected.

He submitted that the estimation of the bank fraud is now in the region of more than Rs 20,000 crore.

Earlier, the top court had issued notices to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and others on the petition, which has alleged “glaring inaction” on the part of investigative agencies into the alleged criminal theft and money laundering of a huge loan advanced to the company by the banks.

The company’s key managerial personnel, including its promoters and directors, besides more than 125 related parties and several “benaamidars” are alleged to be parties to the theft.

Amtek Auto, which owed Rs 12,800 crore to banks and others, featured on the first list of the 12 companies that were referred by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for initiating the insolvency process in 2017.

Dehadrai had told the court that the firm had manipulated its books of accounts to present a fiscal position that was entirely false and unsubstantiated.

Despite this, these instances of fraud were not reported to any probe agency, he had said.

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