ED Attaches Assets Worth over Rs200 Crore of Sobha under PMLA; Stock Falls 6%
Moneylife Digital Team/IANS 07 December 2022
The enforcement directorate (ED) on Wednesday said it had attached the proceeds of crime (PoC) of Sobha Ltd in the form of immovable properties worth Rs201.60 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). With this attachment, the total estimated PoC has touched Rs311 crore. Bengaluru-based Sobha, one of the largest players in realty, said in a regulatory filing that it has no plan to develop the land in Kerala and the provisional attachment by ED has no short- or medium-term impact on the company's operations. Sobha's share closed Wednesday 6% down at Rs633.55 on the BSE. 
 
Based on a first information report (FIR) filed by Haryana police, ED initiated a case against Sobha and others for violating lules laid down by DTCP (directorate of town & country planning) in Haryana and cheating general public for selling plots meant for 'no profit no loss (NPNL)' category at exorbitant market prices in the Sobha International City at Gurugram.
 
In a statement, ED says its investigation revealed that management of Sobha had flouted a premeditated scheme to defeat the intent of the NPNL scheme and in a premeditated manner, the plots were allotted to its own employees or entities and were later sold to the general public as Villas at exorbitant prices. 
 
"In a pre-planned manner, Sobha floated 59 LLPs (limited liability partnership), making its employees as designated partners and transferred fund of Rs29 crore indirectly to these 59 LLPs in order to enable them to purchase 59 plots at the price of Rs48 lakh as stipulated under the scheme. Immediately after the sale of these plots to LLPs, these LLPs transferred these plots to Eunomia Developers LLP (an entity under the direct control of Sobha having the same designated partners. These LLP in turn, sold the plots to the general public and generated PoC of about Rs201 crore," ED says.
 
In a regulatory filing, Sobha says, the matter pertains to an inquiry conducted by the authority regarding allotment of certain plots being developed under a joint development arrangement with certain landowners and licensees in Gurugram, in 2008.
 
"According to the provisional attachment order, the authority has provisionally attached certain lands in Kerala valued at Rs201.60 crore. It may be kindly noted that the company currently has no plans to develop these lands. Hence, the said provisional attachment has no short or medium-term impact on the company's operations. The company believes that there has been no wrongdoing from its side and hence, is confident of obtaining a favourable outcome through appropriate legal recourse," it added.
 
Earlier in 2019, ED searched 17 premises of the real estate developer and its management. In February 2021, the directorate arrested two persons, Ashok Solomon and Prakash Gurbaxani and a prosecution complaint against them were filed. 
 
In June 2021, both, Mr Soloman, chairman of Chintels India Ltd and his partner, Mr Gurbaxani were granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) on the grounds of old age and health-related issues. The HC had also noted that the accused had joined the investigation on 13 occasions.
 
In a February 2022 report, the Print says, 75-year-old Mr Soloman—acquitted in all except a money laundering case filed by ED—is out on bail but is now 'under probe' in a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. "Mr Solomon was convicted and sentenced by a US court on 20 May 1977 for possessing and importing hashish. According to a court document accessed by ThePrint, the drugs had been imported from India through Los Angeles, California, and shipped as domestic air freight to Minneapolis, Minnesota," the report says.
 
With this attachment, the total value of attached assets has reached Rs311 crore, ED says.
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