The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered a full-fledged probe against Tihar Jail officials in connection with allegations that they helped Unitech ex-promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra ran a 'secret underground office' inside and thus violated prison rules. It also ordered their suspension until the probe was completed.
The bench of justice DY Chandrachud and justice MR Shah also directed a copy of the report by Delhi's commissioner of police (CP) Rakesh Asthana on prison management be given to the Union ministry of home for compliance with directions. The court saw a lot of drama with the bench warning senior counsel Vikas Singh, who was appearing from Unitech, about allegations against the court.
Senior counsel Singh appearing for the Chandra brothers, urged the bench to provide access to the forensic auditor Grant Thornton report so that they could put together a defence. He also requested the court not to proceed in an ex-parte manner.
According to the report, Mr Singh also took exception to what he viewed as the court 'running companies'. Quoting him, the report says, "How many companies will this court run? Amrapali you are running, Unitech you are running, Supertech you are running. You have arrested my father, my wife, arrest my children also. Put us all behind bars. At least let me defend Grant Thornton report."
However, the bench did not take the arguments lightly and warned the senior counsel not to make 'allegations' against the apex court.
The bench then declined to provide a copy of the Grant Thornton report to Unitech promoters saying, "Vikas Singh appearing on behalf of accused submits that report of forensic auditors Grant Thornton be made available to him to enable proper defence. From the status report filed, it emerges that report by forensic auditors is a subject matter of probe by ED. It will not be in accordance with the law to provide underlying material which forms the subject matter of investigation to accused at this stage."
In August this year, while expressing displeasure over the way Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra, erstwhile promoters of Unitech, were allegedly operating from Tihar Jail in New Delhi, the Supreme Court had asked to shift them to jails in Maharashtra immediately.
During that hearing, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) claimed it found a 'secret underground office', which Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra was operating. Both his sons Sanjay and Ajay visited the office while they were on parole or bail. The agency has alleged that it was done in collusion with the Tihar Jail authorities.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) Madhavi Divan, representing the ED, submitted before the bench that during search and seizure operations, the agency unearthed a secret underground office, which Ramesh Chandra was using.
Earlier this week, the ED arrested Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra, his daughter-in-law Preeti Chandra and real estate promoter Rajesh Malik for a money laundering case.
A lookout circular was issued against Preeti Chandra, wife of Sanjay Chandra, Unitech promoter and son of Ramesh Chandra. Sanjay Chandra himself is behind bars on charges of money laundering.
Preeti Chandra has got the citizenship of Dominica and it is alleged that she was stashing money outside India.
Last week, the ED had provisionally attached 29 land parcels measuring 13,600sq mt (square metres) having a book value of Rs30.29 crore in Sector 96-98, Noida.
The case pertains to the investigation against the Unitech group under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
These land parcels were illegally allotted to Carnoustie Management (India) Pvt Ltd (CMPL) by the Chandras.
The source of funds for the said purchase was the home-buyers' funds earlier transferred to CMPL by the Unitech promoters.
ED initiated a money-laundering investigation based on various first information reports (FIRs) registered by the Delhi Police and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), based on complaints by home-buyers against the Unitech group its promoters and others.
"Investigation by ED revealed that Unitech group had diverted the proceeds of crime to the tune of Rs347.95 crore to Carnoustie group and, in turn, the entities of Carnoustie group purchased several immovable properties in India and abroad from these proceeds of crime. The total proceeds of crime detected by the ED, in this case, is Rs7,638.43 crore," the agency stated.
Earlier, ED had carried out search operations at 41 locations in NCR and Mumbai, including the premises of Shivalik group, Trikar group, Unitech group and Carnoustie group.
After analysis of seized records followed by the disclosures of various persons, the above diversion and layering of proceeds of crime was unearthed. With this attachment, the total attachment, in this case, has reached Rs672.52 crore.