Picking up the thread from where Surat police had left it, the Enforcement Directorate has initiated money laundering probe against diamond trader Afroz Mohamed Hasanfatta.
Hasanfatta hit the headlines on Monday when the Congress released his photograph with the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi by his side and asked the BJP to explain how Modi was linked to the alleged hawala dealer.
The BJP quickly pulled out a photograph where he was posing with Congress MP Mohd Azharuddin.
Not an awful lot is known how Hasanfatta made his millions. What many people in Surat do talk about is his fancy to get his pictures taken in the company of celebrities and flaunt them.
Hasanfatta was careful to remove his page from social media soon after the ED raided his premises in March this year. The ED claimed to have unearthed a hawala racket running into nearly Rs. 700 crore.
The Foreign Exchange Management Act makes it a civil offence for anyone to carry out a foreign currency transaction without the permission of the Reserve Bank of India. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act – under which Hasanfatta is being probed – is a criminal offence punishable with a seven-year jail term.
“Who he got photographed with is not our concern; we are just probing him under the Foreign Exchange Management Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act as of now,” said an ED official trying to steer clear of the controversy arising out of his photographs.
Though, the ED has questioned Hasanfatta at least twice in the last few days, his present whereabouts are not known.
Hasanfatta could not be reached for comments.
Officials said the ED started probing Hasanfatta for money laundering after suspicions that he could be whitewashing black money in the garb of diamond trade.
They believe that he was linked to the three companies that were booked by Surat police in a forgery case.
The firms produced fake bills of purchase of diamonds to send out money on the pretext of importing non-existent diamonds for processing.
“The three firms are accused of submitting fake bills of entry to a private bank. They transacted nearly Rs. 128 crore, mainly to Hong Kong and Dubai,” a Surat police official said, conceding that the ED wasn’t sharing any details of its probe with them.
“We have reasons to believe that there is a possible link between Hasanfatta and the two FIRs registered by the Surat police,” said an ED official on the condition of anonymity.