New Delhi, June 2: The Enforcement Directorate has unearthed a huge nexus of illegal drug smuggling money to the tune of Rs 500 crore being laundered and routed through hawala operations in Punjab.
The agency, in its operations in the first six months in the state, has stumbled upon a regular modus operandi of laundering of hawala money obtained through criminal activities of narcotics trade and illegal wealth generated in the real estate sector.
The agency, which has brought under its scanner numerous hawala dealers in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Phagwara and few other cities, is set to attach high value assets and properties of the accused as it is now enforcing the stringent and criminal clauses of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in these cases instead of the civil provisions of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
Under PMLA laws, the onus of proving innocence is on the accused, his properties can be seized, getting bail is difficult while under FEMA the accused can escape with 300 per cent penalty at the maximum. The agency, which is the lead department to check and prosecute blackmoney generated through criminal acts, is focusing on Punjab after the ED headquarters here detected huge violations of drug funds and hawala in the state which is also facing a huge onslaught of narcotics being smuggled especially from across the border.
"The agency has seized close to Rs five crore in cash during its searches in these cases in Punjab while documents pertaining to illegal funds of Rs 500 crore have been seized till now.Attachment of properties of accused will now be the future action," sources privy to the development said.
The agency, sources said, is now dealing these cases under the PMLA rather than forex rules as prosecution and convictions is stronger under the former law, they said. Trade based laundering is what ED will crack on now, they said, adding the agency has approached its foreign counterparts for information on a number of people suspected to have invested or parked their funds overseas.
The agency also registered a money laundering case against an alleged hawala dealer in the state sometime back even as it booked Anup Singh Kahlon under the same law in the much talked about Zirakpur drug hauls case cracked by Punjab police.
The ED is also set to issue penalty orders against a number of hawala dealers in the state which the investigators say are suspected to be routing illegal funds of the narcotics trade.
Hawala is the common name of routing illegal funds side-stepping the legal banking channels and thereby evading taxes and generating unaccounted black-money.