The investigation into the over Rs 500-crore kidney scam has entered a crucial stage with a Delhi court seeking assistance from authorities in Hong Kong and Australia to ascertain the money trail of alleged kingpin Dr Amit Kumar.
The court accepted the plea of Enforcement Directorate for issuance of Letters Rogatory to authorities in the two countries as investigations allegedly revealed that Dr Amit, a quack, had made offshore investments in properties and banks.
"This is a fit case where letter of rogatory is required to be issued for judicial assistance ... To the competent authorities in Hong Kong and Australia to identify the ill-gotten money earned through unlawful means and for collection of evidence," Special Judge A K Pathak said.
"I order that Letters of Rogatory be issued to the competent authorities in Hong Kong and Australia through the Ministry of External Affairs," the Judge, presiding over the designated court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, said.
Letter Rogatory is a formal request on the part of a court seeking assistance from authorities in other countries for collection of evidence in a criminal case.
Counsel for ED Naveen Kumar Matta submitted that the probe has to be carried out in Hong Kong and Australia by examining various persons and collecting documents as it has emerged so far that Dr Amit made investments in these two countries for acquiring assets and his bank accounts have also been traced there.
Dr Amit, who is suspected to have performed around 500 kidney transplant surgeries on high-profile patients from India and abroad, allegedly forced poor persons to donate kidney in the last 10 years and amassed over Rs 500 crore, the ED had alleged.
The court considered the ED's submission that both the countries were members to the Foreign Action Task Force, constituted by the United Nations Security Council to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
"Both the countries are the Members of Financial Action Task Force and India is having an observer's status in the inter-governmental body," the court said.
Dr Amit, who lacked the requisite qualification for carrying out kidney transplants, had opened a company in the name of M/s Liberty Health Care in 1997 and allegedly carried out unauthorised operations on Indian and foreign clients.
Besides Dr Amit, who is cooling his heels in Ambala jail after his deportation from Nepal in connection with various cases lodged by the CBI, eight others including close confidante Dr Upender and brother Jeevan Kumar have been booked by the ED under various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Earlier, the same court had allowed ED to quiz the accused in jail after it submitted that Dr Amit and his M/s Liberty Health Care Private Ltd had almost 12 bank accounts in their name, including an account in the Royal Bank of Canada.
The accused, who used to reportedly charge USD 50,000 for a surgery, will have to explain to the ED about the funds used to buy about six luxury cars, including a Mercedes registered in the name of his Gurgaon-based company.
Kumar, who was arrested on February seven this year from a forest resort in Nepal following a red corner notice issued by Interpol, was allegedly found carrying foreign exchange worth Rs one crore.