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Amrapali Case: SC asks ED to attach JPMorgan’s assets

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday told the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to attach JPMorgan’s properties if it failed to give response on depositing Rs 140 crore in the Amrapali Group case.

The homebuyers’ counsel contended before a Bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justice U.U. Lalit, that there was no response from the multinational company on the issue.

When Justice Mishra asked the ED what it had done so far, the ED official responded by saying the preliminary investigation into the matter had been complete.

“What about the money they were required to deposit,” asked the apex court. “Why don’t you attach their (JPMorgan) properties to the extent it’s required (in accordance money, which is supposed to be deposited in the court), and then they will come to us,” said the court.

The court said the ED should take the necessary action and also noted no counsel representing JPMorgan was present in the court at the hearing.

The ED had earlier told the court it had found prima facie evidence of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) violation against JPMorgan in the Amrapali Group case.

The ED, represented by Joint Director Rajeshwar Singh, had said it would wrap up the probe into the multi-national company soon and submit the report in the apex court on the next hearing.

The ED said it had recorded statements of the company’s country head in connection with the firm’s dealings with the now defunct Amrapali Group.

Singh contended that though the investigation was ongoing, prima facie it was evident that the firm was involved in violations of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and action would be taken accordingly.

The Bench had asked the ED to conduct an unbiased investigation into the matter.

“As recorded in the apex court judgment on the basis of the forensic auditor’s report, a reputed venture capital fund, like JPMorgan, has facilitated promoters of Amrapali to launder money and take it outside India using companies where employees such as peons of the statutory auditor were made directors,” said Kumar Mihir, one of the advocates representing homebuyers.

He said it seemed the ED had found more anomalies under the PMLA and accordingly, a complaint had been filed. “It’s a welcome step and we are hopeful that the entire amount of Rs 140 crore will be recovered,” said Mihir.

The Supreme Court in the July verdict had ordered a probe into the financial fraud by the Amrapali Group, which included diversion of 42,000 homebuyers’ money. The ED had begun a probe into the case, where it was likely to question JPMorgan officials.

The forensic audit plays a crucial role in ascertaining the nature of JPMorgan’s involvement and how did it allegedly help Amrapali Group in siphoning off homebuyers’ funds.

The homebuyers’ counsel said according to the court verdict, the multinational company invested around Rs 85 crore ($12.3 million) in an Amrapali Group company’s shares and later sold them to an office boy and nephew of the auditor for Rs 140 crore.

“The shares were overvalued for making payment to JPMorgan. It was adopted as a device for siphoning off the money of homebuyers to foreign countries,” the court had said in judgement, agreeing with the forensic auditor regarding JPMorgan’s role.

The apex court also allowed the ED to take custody of Amrapali Group CMD Anil Sharma, Directors Shiv Priya and Ajay Kumar, who are lodged in a Delhi jail, for interrogation in money laundering and other offences.