Manoj Punamiya, former chief minister of Jharkhand Madhu Koda’s Mumbai link, had travelled to Dubai five times in last three months despite a lookout notice issued against him.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) learnt this while checking Punamiya’s passport after he was caught at the Mumbai airport on Saturday night.
The immigration authorities detained Punamiya when he returned from his fifth visit to Dubai and was handed over to the ED officials who then took him to Delhi.
ED officials expressed shock at Punamiya’s Dubai visits because all the airports in India share a computer network. This means that by typing passport details at the immigration counter, the officer can find out if a lookout notice has been issued against the flier in India.
Officials claimed Punamiya visited Dubai to sell Koda’s properties there. Koda, who is behind bars, is being investigated by ED and the Income-Tax Department for illegally amassing around Rs 4,000 crore. Punamiya, who owns Balaji Group (a bullion company) at Zaveri Bazaar, had through his firm and other associates, allegedly transferred Koda’s Rs 1,500 crore abroad through hawala (transfer of money through illegal channel).
Officials refused to reveal from which airports in India, Punamiya used to fly to Dubai.
“We are finding out which immigration officials at these airports helped him fly out of the country,” a senior official said, requesting anonymity. He added that it was not possible without an insider’s help [from the immigration] to dodge the lookout notice. The official said appropriate legal action would be taken against the person who helped Punamiya. After reaching Delhi, Punamiya complained of chest pain and got himself admitted to AIIMS hospital. He was later shifted to Apollo Hospital.
Punamiya was last questioned by the ED in March. When he did not respond to any of their summons, a lookout notice was issued against him.
The ED is also looking for two hawala operators, Asif Meetha and one Mahendra, who allegedly helped Punamiya illegally send money abroad.