ED gets 10 days to quiz Bastawade

Ranchi, Jan. 31: The designated court of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Ranchi, today allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate Anil Adinath Bastawade, hawala operator and close aide of former chief minister Madhu Koda, anywhere in India or abroad.

Though counsel for the directorate and senior public prosecutor S.R. Das prayed for 14 days' remand to facilitate interrogation of Bastawade "anywhere in the country or if needed abroad", the PMLA court of R.K. Choudhary allowed 10 days to complete the interrogation process.

"We need to interrogate Bastawade to unearth fresh evidence. In addition to illegal investments made from the proceeds of the crores of rupees laundered out of Jharkhand to other parts of the country and abroad which have already been identified, interrogation of Bastawade would throw additional light on investments which have so far not been unearthed," Das told the court.

The 10 days would commence from the date the directorate takes Bastawade's remand. The court further ordered that a health check up of Bastawade should be conducted before that and again on the conclusion of the interrogation process before he is lodged back in jail. The court ordered that Bastawade be allowed legal counsel only once during the 10 days.

The court rejected a prayer by Bastawade's counsel Himangshu Sinha that his client be interrogated at Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, where the hawala operator is lodged.

Bastawade was detained on January 22 in Indonesia, where he had been in hiding for over two years ever since the designated PMLA court on August 23, 2010, issued a non-bailable warrant against him and six other close aides of Koda. He was brought to Delhi on January 29 and to Ranchi yesterday. He was remanded to 14 days in judicial custody.

Koda has been languishing in Birsa Munda Central Jail since September 30, 2009 on charges of possessing disproportionate assets and criminal conspiracy of laundering crores of rupees to Indian and foreign destinations through his aides.

The Supreme Court, while hearing a bail plea, granted ED one more month's custody of Koda. The ED has said that it will confront Koda with new evidence and prove the direct link between him and Bastawade.

Others also lodged in Birsa Munda Central Jail on charges of money laundering are Binod Sinha, his brother Vikas Sinha, Bijay Joshi, managing director of Indo Asahi Glass Factory, hawala operators Manoj Kumar Punamiya and Arvind Vyas, all known to be close to the former Jharkhand chief minister. A dossier compiled by the ED revealed that Rs.3549.72 crore was laundered out of the state to foreign destinations and to various parts of the country during the period that Koda was the chief minister between 2006 and 2008.

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