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ED to go slow on Ash parcel case

It prefers to wait for Mumbai Customs' probe, reports Manish Pachouly.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2006 20:52 IST

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is in no hurry to investigate the case of mystery parcel that came on actress Aishwarya Rai’s name from Netherlands.

The department has decided to wait for the Mumbai Customs to complete their investigation and submit a report on the case.

The Customs would take at least two to three months to move ahead in the probe as they have written letter to the Indian embassy in Netherlands requesting them to seek help of the Customs departmentto get in touch with Avineshwar, the man who sent the parcel and question him. Commissioner of Customs, Import, AK Prasad had told Hindustan Times last week that it would take two to three months to get a feed back.

The Customs has already taken Aishwarya’s statement and gave a clean chit to her "as of now".

The ED intends to investigate the case either from the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) or Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) angle. A senior ED officer requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said that the department would wait for the Customs report to decide on the angle they would probe.

Moreover, with the investigation now resting on Avineshwar, who is a Dutch national, lawyers said that if the ED decides to investigate the case under FEMA, it would not be very helpful, as he can’t be probed under this Act. "That is because the territorial jurisdiction of the Act is only India. It further applies to all offices and branches which are outside India but which are owned and controlled by a person who is resident of India," said Advocate Sujay Kantawala who practices Customs and FEMA-related cases.

Kantawala said that FEMA also doesn’t have provision of arrest and involves only penalty. "The penalty could be upto three times of the amount involved," he said. The parcel, mailed from Rotterdam, contained undeclared cash of 23,000 euros (approximately Rs 13.20 lakh). Some electronic items and a T-Shirt were also there in the parcel but they were declared.

Lawyers further feel that it would be difficult to use PMLA as under this Act the currency has to be proceeds of crime which is projected here as untainted property. "Hence PMLA can only be used if it is found that the 23,000 euros are proceeds of crime and came into the country to be diverted for some official business by projecting it as untainted property," said Kantawala. "At this stage it doesn’t seem to attract PMLA," he added.

First Published: Dec 09, 2006 20:52 IST