PMLA | Offence of money laundering, triable only by a Special Court constituted under the PML Act

Appellate Tribunal for SAFEMA, FEMA, PMLA, NDPS & PBPT Act: The coram of Manmohan Singh, J. (Chairman) and G.C. Mishra (Member) ordered to keep an appeal filed before this Tribunal in abeyance until the Special Court, which had already taken cognizance of the matter at hand, finally disposed of the case.

Facts of the case were that one Mr Anup Prakash Garg who was a Director in Andhra Bank from had hatched a criminal conspiracy with Sterling Biotech Ltd. (SBL) and cheated Andhra Bank to the tune of Rs 5382 crores, which was received by him as gratification for favouring SBL group in his capacity as Director of Andhra Bank. The case of the Enforcement Directorate was that the said amount was received by Mr. Garg in cash, and was layered into the appellant company set up by him with his son, wife and his daughter-in-law who were Directors in the appellant company. Aggrieved by the ED’s case in Special Court, the instant appeal was filed.

The preliminary objection taken by counsel for the respondent Mr Nitesh Rana was that ED had filed a case in the Special Court under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and the Special Court had already taken cognizance of the same. Therefore, it was pleaded that this case be kept pending till disposal by the Special Court.

The Court noted that the entire scheme of PMLA provides that only a Special Court can adjudge on the offence of money laundering. Section 44(1)(a) of PMLA specifically states that an offence punishable under Section 4 and any scheduled offence connected to the offence under that Section shall be triable by a Special Court. Reliance in this regard was placed on Nikesh Tarachand Shah v. Union of India, (2018) 11 SCC 1.

In view of the above, it was held that only the Special Court had the power to decide on the offence of money laundering.[RAG Buildtech (P) Ltd. v. Deputy Director, Directorate of Enforcement, Delhi, FPA-PMLA-2548/DLI/2018, decided on 26-03-2019]

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