Karela Fry

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Who is Hassan Ali?

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Hassan Ali after appearing in court

Is he a scrap dealer, a real-estate tycoon who also runs a stud farm, a money launderer or a below-the-table arms dealer? Or perhaps all these, in addition to other roles yet to be discovered?

Straits Times reports the arrest of Hassan Ali Khan, apparently a stud farm owner:

A HIGH-ROLLING stud farm owner accused of illegally stashing billions of dollars in overseas accounts appeared in a Mumbai court on Tuesday in a case seen as symbolising India’s struggle against rampant tax evasion.

Hasan Ali Khan, who says he earns a modest salary as a scrap metal merchant and denies any wrongdoing, was arrested late on Monday on charges of money laundering, India’s tax agency told Reuters.

His arrest, spearheaded by an assertive Supreme Court, comes as the government is under increased pressure to clamp down on graft, with the accusations against Khan underscoring a failure to curb an estimated US$16 billion (S$20 billion) a year in tax evasion.

India’s highest court last week rebuked authorities for spending too long investigating Khan without results.

‘What the hell is going on in this country?’ asked one of the two Supreme Court judges hearing the case on Thursday.

‘We are deeply disturbed by the ongoing investigation. This is not a normal investigation. Is it like a friendly chat?’

The Hindu blandly reports:

Mr. Khan, [who is] a real estate consultant and owner of race horses, was arrested on Monday midnight under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act after prolonged searches at his premises in Pune and Mumbai and sustained interrogation.

He is alleged to have stashed over 8 billion USD in Swiss Banks besides having links to international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. Mr. Khan is also facing charges of tax evasion of over Rs. 40,000 crore.

ET reports that the Supreme Court takes a very stringent view of the INR 36,000 crores (USD 8 billion, ie, 200 milliRaja) belonging to Hassan Ali that the tax authorities have traced to banks abroad:

Hassan Ali Khan

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to consider invoking stringent terror charges against Pune-based stud farm owner Has[s]an Ali for allegedly stashing away huge amount of unaccounted money in foreign banks as it may have repercussions for the national security.

This comes as a natural corollary of the SC’s earlier order directing the government to inquire into the sources of black money which may have terror, arms and narcotics links. It had castigated the government for looking the issue from just tax evasion perspective.

A bench comprising Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar asked the government to contemplate invoking the provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and other stringent provisions of the Indian Penal Code against Ali for his alleged links with various arms dealers. The bench also asked the government why the forgery case against Ali for possessing the passports by furnishing fake documents not to be handed over to the premier probe agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Supreme Court ko gussa kyun aata hai? TOI goes over old allegations of a cover up:

[A. S.] Deshbhratar, who was DCP (zone III) in 2008, played a role in getting Khan declared a proclaimed offender, in the seizure of his properties and getting a red corner notice issued against him. Khan was arrested from the Madh Island bungalow of builder Yusuf Lakdawala.

“The questioning was being recorded on a spy camera or a mobile phone by some officer of the investigating unit, apparently to protect the police, investigating complaints likely to be made, alleging that the police had used strong armed tactics against the accused,” his application stated.

He said he did not support the recording, apparently a bona fide bid by officers to insulate themselves from victimization by powerful elements, often found to be in collusion with the political establishment.

The tapes, allegedly leaked after interrogation to the media, revealed that Khan had admitted his association in the company of Yusuf Lakdawala with the then chief minister, (Union) home minister and Ahmed Patel, the political advisor to Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Preity Zinta should cry her heart out. The real Guiness Book entry from India is about the largest tax assessment ever. The Hindu reports:

The Income Tax department has raised to Rs. 89,000 crore its total tax demand on Hasan Ali Khan and his associates with the businessman himself having to cough up around Rs. 62,000 crore.

The IT department, which earlier had raised a total tax demand of Rs. 71,845 crore on Mr. Khan and his associates, has now included a 24 per cent penalty on this amount as the assessment on them was made in 2008, according to the department sources.

Investigators probing the alleged money laundering and tax evasion charges against the Pune-based businessman meanwhile are mulling to send fresh Letter Rogatories to Switzerland.

Sources said the multi-disciplinary team of officials from I-T, ED, Economic Offences Wing of Maharashtra Police and RBI are now planning to obtain fresh LR’s from a Mumbai court as they have now charged Mr. Khan under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

March 11, 2011

The ED is still trying to convince a Maharashtra court that it has sufficient case to detain Hassan Ali for questioning. IE reports:

A day after a Mumbai local court took the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to task for not making a proper case against Hasan Ali Khan while seeking his custody on money laundering charges, the investigating agency on Thursday submitted to the court that it had “found large number of links” to establish that Khan was involved in money laundering activities.

And Rajeev Awasthi, senior counsel of the ED, urged the the Mumbai Principal Sessions Court not to make these documents public.

“Please give us time to investigate the matter. We had recorded his statements 18 times before, but we did not get assistance from him. Now we need his custodial interrogation and will submit the status report before the Supreme Court,” Awasthi pleaded before the court.

However, defense counsel I P Bagadia argued that just because a case was pending in the apex court, custody of his client should not be given to the ED. He contended that the prosecution should prima facie disclose what offence had been committed by his client.

Judge M L Tahilyani said he would give a verdict on the ED request for Hasan Ali’s custody on Friday after going through the documents submitted by the ED.

The Bihar police again acted faster than Maharashtra. NDTV reports on how a single person can have as many passports as Hassan Ali is reported to have:

The regional passport office in Patna has filed an FIR at Kotwali police station against Hasan Ali Khan for submitting fake information about his residential address while applying for a passport in December 2010, a top police official has said.

Hasan Ali Khan, a Pune-based stud farm owner, has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for money laundering and tax evasion.

“We have registered an FIR against Hasan Ali for changing his birth place address several times in his passport. He has provided incorrect particulars for getting the passport made. He had also not given the same details of the earlier passports he had,” said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Alok Kumar.

Khan, in his passport application, had given Pathantoli locality under Alamganj police station in Patna as his local address and Belsand village in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district as the permanent address.

“The passport officials had apparently got suspicious about these documents during verification and then decided to lodge an FIR with the police,” Kumar said.

Hasan had obtained passports from Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai and reportedly one from London, he said, adding he had also applied for passport from Guwahati and Chandigarh.

Mar 17, 2011

The Hindu reports an “extraoridnary” move by the Supreme Court:

In an extraordinary move, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed an order passed by a special court in Mumbai, constituted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), releasing Hasan Ali Khan on bail.

A Bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar stayed the March 11 order acting on a special leave petition filed by the Enforcement Directorate directly in the Supreme Court, instead of the Bombay High Court. A Mumbai court had on March 11 rejected the ED’s plea for custodial interrogation of Mr. Khan on the ground that the agency had not gathered sufficient evidence to justify its plea.

The Bench, after hearing Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam for the ED, cancelled Hasan Ali’s bail even without giving him notice. “We are satisfied that the material made available on record prima facie discloses the commission of offence by the respondent punishable under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002,” the Bench said in its order. “The order passed by the Principal Judge creates an extraordinary situation [that], if allowed to stand even for a moment, may ultimately result in frustration of the very investigation. An extraordinary situation requires an equally effective and extraordinary solution. It is for that reason we propose to interfere with the order even at this stage.

“Having regard to the extraordinary circumstances and complexity of the issues involved and the magnitude of the case, we consider it appropriate to authorise the detention of the respondent/accused for custodial interrogation… He shall, accordingly, remain in the custody of the authorities of the Enforcement Directorate for a period of four days.”

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