NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to take a decision within ten days on granting or denying sanction to prosecute BSP MLC in Uttar Pradesh Mohammad Iqbal, accused of laundering money by creating a maze of over hundred shell companies.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud, after perusing status reports of agencies like the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), said it was apparent from the reports that various companies had been set up.
Rajeshwar Singh, a joint director in the ED, who appeared before the court in pursuance of an order, told the bench that the agency could not prosecute Iqbal under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act unless the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the SFIO registered a case against Iqbal, a member of the legislative council (MLC).
"We direct the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to take a conscious decision on whether to grant sanction to prosecute (Iqbal) or not within ten days from today," the court said.
It also ordered that the status reports submitted before the apex court be made available to the ministry within two days to enable it to take a decision on grant of sanction to prosecute the UP leader.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who represented various probe agencies, submitted that the reports have disclosed that 111 shell companies have been used to launder money and the ED could proceed if other agencies lodged the FIR for substantial offence.
The money laundering case pertained to the crime proceeds and hence, an FIR for substantive offence was required to be lodged first, the ED said.
Initially, the bench asked the ED official about the findings recorded in the status reports and actions taken against the BSP leader.
Earlier, the court had taken note of the status reports of the agencies probing allegations of money laundering and criminal activities of Iqbal and had sought the personal appearance of the ED official.
The apex court, on August 8 last year, had perused the probe reports of the SFIO), the ED and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on a complaint against the BSP Member of Legislative Council (MLC).
It had then asked CBI to "look into the complaints filed by petitioner (Ranvir Singh) in the light of the reports submitted by the ED and the CBDT. In that view, we expect the CBI to examine the matter at an appropriate level for such action as may be considered necessary in accordance with law."
It had sought a status report from CBI which was today submitted in a sealed cover.
The apex court had also said that investigation by other central agencies prima facie suggested that shell companies associated with Iqbal were purportedly indulging in money laundering.
"The new reports by SFIO, ED, CBDT suggest that several companies which are prima facie shell companies or fake companies are indulging in money laundering and needs investigation and CBI needs to examine the serious issues and take into consideration these developments," it had said.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by another UP leader Ranvir Singh, who has accused Iqbal of indulging in money laundering. His counsel Harin Raval had alleged that CBI has not taken any action on the complaint.
The BSP MLC had said that there was bias in the probe and the person coming to the Supreme Court himself has three criminal cases against him.
Iqbal had said he had nothing to do with the family businesses while referring to the report of the Saharanpur district magistrate and adding that he has been dragged to this court.
However, the bench had referred to the probe which revealed that a large number of companies were set up on one address.
It had said Iqbal has set up partnership firms and the funds were being transferred from partnership firm to the tune of Rs 1,374 crore and the report suggests that he is the kingpin.
The Centre had earlier said the probe conducted so far has indicated that there was some nexus with the alleged activities of former Uttar Pradesh Minister Babu Singh Khushwaha, an accused in NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) scam, and the companies attached to the MLC.
The petition, filed by Singh, has accused the MLC of indulging in money laundering and other criminal activities.