Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that Rs 18,000 crore had been returned to the banks in the Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi cases.
Mehta, speaking on behalf of the Centre, told a bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar that the total proceeds of crime in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases pending before the Supreme Court amount to Rs 67,000 crore.
He went on to say that the Directorate of Enforcement is currently investigating 4,700 cases, and that the number of cases taken up for investigation each year over the last five years has ranged from 111 in 2015-16 to 981 in 2020-21.
Mehta testified before the bench that in the cases of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi, Rs 18,000 crore had been returned to the banks.
The Supreme Court is hearing a slew of petitions challenging the broad range of powers granted to the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) under the law for search, seizure, investigation, and attachment of proceeds of crime.
Mehta told the bench, which included Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar, that in the last five years (2016-17 to 2020-21), only 2,086 cases were taken up for investigation under the PMLA, despite the police and other enforcement agencies filing approximately 33 lakh FIRs for predicate offences.
“Very few cases are being taken up for investigation under the PMLA in comparison to annual registration of cases under the Money Laundering Act in the UK (7,900), the US (1,532), China (4,691), Austria (1,036), Hongkong (1,823), Belgium (1,862), and Russia (2,764),” he added.
Mehta emphasised that anti-money laundering measures have clearly moved beyond the embryonic stage of drug or terrorism-related offences. “Furthermore, efforts to combat money laundering have consistently advocated for the inclusion of the broadest range of predicate offences in domestic laws,” he added.
Over the last few weeks, a slew of senior advocates, including Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, Sidharth Luthra, Amit Desai, and others, have made submissions to the Supreme Court on a variety of issues concerning the potential misuse of PMLA provisions introduced through Act amendments.
The law has been criticised for a number of reasons, including stringent bail conditions, non-communication of arrest grounds, arrest of people without an ECIR (similar to a FIR), broad definitions of money laundering and proceeds of crime, and statements made by accused during investigation that are admissible as evidence during the trial.