Last month, customs officials in Mumbai gave actress Aishwarya Rai a clean chit “as of now” in the case where a parcel containing 23,000 euros (Rs 13.20 lakh) was mailed to her from Rotterdam. That was then.
Now, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has launched an inquiry into the case. It is examining whether there has been a violation of either the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) or the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
The probe is being headed by Atul Verma, deputy director (Mumbai Zone), and supervised by special director K Nageshwar Rao.
On November 28, assistant director RK Dubey wrote to Verma, taking cognizance of media reports that “a packet containing electronic items along with 23,000 euros had been received in Mumbai”. The letter said: “You may obtain complete details of this case from Mumbai customs and examine the case closely from the PMLA/FEMA point of view. A report be sent to this office early as desired by the director. This issues with prior approval of the director.”
Enforcement Directorate sources in Mumbai said they had begun investigations and would be, among other things, scrutinising phone call details.
Investigators are also trying to get more information about the sender of the parcel, identified only as Avineshwar. After inquiries revealed that he had not visited India through Mumbai, customs officials, probing whether he visited India recently, are now checking in Delhi.
Customs authorities have also, through the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, written to the Indian embassy in the Netherlands, seeking the help of their counterparts there to trace Avineshwar. AK Prasad, customs commissioner (imports), told the Hindustan Times that the letter was written a week ago.
Questioned at the Mumbai airport on November 20, Rai had denied any knowledge about the parcel or the sender. The parcel contained a DVD player, binoculars, a T-shirt and two cellphones apart from the money.