The CBI has filed an FIR against 13 firms, including a tax consultancy and market research entity registered at a one-room office in South Mumbai, and unknown public servants for allegedly using six banks to illegally transfer Rs 2,252 crore abroad between August 2015 and February 2016 through fraudulent imports.
According to the FIR, Stelkon Infratel Pvt Ltd and 12 of its group firms submitted forged bills of entry of imports to Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, State Bank of Hyderabad, Corporation Bank, Central Bank of India and Axis Bank and remitted money abroad through Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) and National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT).
According to the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Stelkon Infratel was setup in May 2013. Its authorised capital and paid up capital is Rs 1 lakh each, and the firm is involved in legal, accounting, auditing tax consultancy and market research activities.
The FIR claimed that Stelkon Infratel carried out 187 transactions in Punjab National Bank alone to remit Rs 463.74 crore abroad against 25 import consignments with a declared value of only Rs 3.14 crore.
“The amount remitted by these firms through banks is around Rs 2252.82 crore while the value of actual import was to the tune of only Rs 24.64 crore,” the FIR states.
The 12 group firms under the CBI scanner are: Apolla Enterprises, Kundan Trading, Disney International, Anek Trading Pvt Ltd, Lubeez Enterprises, Pawan Enterprise, Lemon Trading, Padilite Traders, Fine Touch Impex, Azure Enterprises, Seabird Enterprises and Iconic Enterprises.
“The accused firms entered into conspiracy with unknown bank officials for trade based money laundering. Prima facie, it appears that the banks have not exercised any due diligence in verifying the genuineness of the importers and the documents that they have submitted during the request for remittances. There appears to be no cross checking regarding the veracity of the bill of entry before permitting the amount to be remitted,” says the FIR.
The trade-based money laundering allegedly orchestrated by Stelkon Infratel was first unearthed by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in 2016.
As per sources, the DRI probe found that Stelkon Infratel was operated from a one-room office in Masjid Bunder. The other group firms, which operated current accounts in the banks, were floated using the Importer Exporter Code registered at fictitious addresses.
The DRI also has alleged that the banks remitted money without conducting due diligence or carrying out the necessary suspicious cash transaction reporting (STR/CTR) to the Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND).