KOCHI: In an interesting turn of events, a Bulgarian firm has approached a local court here claiming $86,49,920 (around Rs 66 crore) lying in different bank accounts in the city and has been frozen by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case.
The Bulgarian firm Partner Lease OOD, a limited liability company represented by its authorised agent Minerva Mikhaylova Dimitrova, 30, of City of Sofia, Republic of Bulgaria, moved the Special Court for PMLA cases for the release of Rs 66 crore lying frozen in different bank accounts.
The said amount was the fund paid by another Bulgarian company Zvezda AD, engaged in sunflower oil and sugar-related business, to a Kochi-based trading company, Trade International, for an export order of sugar and sunflower oil during the period April-May in 2016.
Though Zvezda AD transferred the fund to the bank account of Trade International owned by proprietor Jose George, the export deal came under the scanner of police after Customs found that the exporter had allegedly fabricated documents and not a single consignment was shipped to the buyer.
Based on a probe, a case was registered against Jose George, owner of Trade International, under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) by Kochi city police and the case was later taken over by the ED. As per the petition filed by Partner Lease OOD, they have come forward to claim the money lying in Indian banks after they took over several assets of Zvezda AD which declared insolvency.
The assets included the amount receivable of Zvezda AD from Trade International. “In the course of the probe, Jose George passed away. But the ED has filed separate cases against his wife and daughter in 2018 to confiscate the attached properties which are said to be the proceeds of the crime,” said an officer, who is close to the development.
“The ED took over the probe after it was found that a few export documents submitted by the firm carried a forged seal of the Customs and the company had entered into a deal for exporting 16,000 metric tonnes of crude sunflower oil and 4,000 metric tonnes of refined sunflower oil when the law only permitted overseas sales of cooking oils in small packs of up to five kg for a year with a limit of 20,000 tonnes. Above all, George also withdrew Rs 30 crore from the account and deposited it in the accounts of his family members,” the officer added. Though the PMLA court dismissed the petition of Partner Lease OOD, it directed the ED to consider converting the attached amount into an interest-bearing deposit in a nationalized bank and conduct a detailed probe into the role of Zvezda AD in the case.