NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) will begin detailed interrogation of JP Morgan India board members including a Chinese national to take forward its money laundering probe linked to the alleged diversion of crores of rupees of home buyers who wanted to purchase an abode in Amrapali Group's real estate projects.
What has come as a shot in the arm for the agency is a June 18 order of the Supreme Court directing the multi-national firm JP Morgan to transfer over Rs 140 crore plus interest from its bank accounts, that has been recently attached by the ED, to the escrow account maintained by the UCO bank.
The apex court said that the money would be used for completing the pending projects of the now defunct Amrapali Group.
Officials probing money laundering crimes said this is the first time that the apex court has sought transfer of such funds in its accounts after being satisfied with the provisional attachment order issued by the central agency.
Usually, funds once attached are kept in the bank accounts where they are and the order for attachment is sent to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Adjudicating Authority for approval and subsequent confiscation of assets.
The ED had recently attached, as part of an order issued under the PMLA, more than Rs 187 crore funds of JP Morgan India Pvt Ltd kept in a bank branch in Mumbai.
The apex court, which is monitoring this case, had in December last year directed the ED to take charge of investigation and asked its Lucknow zone Joint Director Rajeshwar Singh to take action against JP Morgan under the anti-money laundering law and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and apprise it on a regular basis.
An ED team led by Singh attends the court hearings too.
The top court had cracked whip on errant builders for breaching the trust of home buyers, ordered cancellation of Amrapali Group's registration under real estate law RERA and ousted it from its prime properties in the national capital region by nixing the land leases in July last year.
Official sources said the investigating agency has now sought all financial documents, agreements, memorandum of understanding and others from J P Morgan India and will begin detailed interrogation and recording of statement of its directors like Gunjan Bahl, Hrushikesh Kar and Chanakya Chakravarty and few others.
A Chinese national, Todd Wong, who was a Director on the board of J P Morgan India Property Mauritius Company- II will also be summoned for questioning and recording of his statement under the PMLA, official sources said.
They said a chargesheet or prosecution complaint will be filed in "due course" after recording of statements.
Wong was on board of the company between February 5, 2010 to April 25, 2013 and as per an ED affidavit "was inducted as the authorised signatory of its escrow account." "Debit authority of this account was given to him (Wong) as per decision made in the board of Amrapali Zodiac Developers Pvt Ltd.
It is significant to note that all the banking vouchers through which funds to the tune of Rs 140 crore were transferred or debited from Amrapali Zodiac Developers Pvt. Ltd to Mannat Buildcraft P Ltd was signed solely by Todd Wong," the ED investigation has found.
The agency has alleged that Mannat Buildcraft is one of the three shell companies or dummy firms used in this case to launder and "divert" funds obtained as deposits from Amrapali home buyers and these monies were then kept in the bank account of Amrapali Zodiac Developers Pvt Ltd.
ED has earlier said its investigation found that the "employees of JP Morgan India Ltd on board of Ms Amrapali Zodiac Developers P Ltd and Ms Amrapali Silicon City P Ltd were not only in complete control of the material decision of the respective companies and securing interests of the funds but they also indulged prima facie in money laundering to divert the home buyers funds to the tune of Rs 187 crore to JP Morgan India Property Mauritius Company-II in Mauritius and Ms JP Morgan IPF-I Singapore 2 PTE Ltd in Singapore."
The agency had said the Mauritian company "was an active participant in the conspiracy from the very outset" and that JP Morgan India "played a key role in the remittance of diverted funds of the home buyers to Mauritius and Singapore."
These employees of JP Morgan India P Ltd, it had said, serving on the board of Directors of Amrapali Zodiac Developers P Ltd "got arranged the cash flow in the company through funds arranged from other companies of Amrapali group, diversion of the funds of the home buyers, staged valuation of shares, creation of shell companies with dummy directors and sham transactions to finally get accrued about Rs 140 crore to JP Morgan India Property Mauritius Company-II."