ED, I-T authorities launch probe into fresh charges against Naval War Room leak accused

The Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax authorities have initiated investigations into fresh allegations that millionaire businessman Abhishek Verma, currently being tried on allegations of having obtained classified documents from the Naval War Room, may have paid for his bail bond and legal fees using hawala channels via Mauritius accounts.

ED sources said they had received documents from Mr. Verma's United States-based lawyer and business partner, C. Edmonds Allen, alleging that he illegally routed $40,000 through a Mauritius-based friend.

Separate case

The ED has already registered a separate case against Mr. Verma under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

In the letter, a copy of which is with The Hindu, Mr. Allen alleges he received instructions in August 2008, to transfer the funds to a firm controlled by Mr. Verma's friend, after the lawyer received the same amount from a different Mauritius-based firm owned by Mr. Verma. “The transaction definitely comes under money-laundering,” Mr. Allen alleges in his letter, saying that Mr. Verma's friend then used the funds to pay for the businessman's bail.

Mr. Allen's letter also alleges that Mr. Verma had, in December 2008, asked him to set up an overseas escrow account especially set up to pay bribes to high judicial officials. The enterprise did not, however, appear to have fructified.

Escrow accounts on radar

Indian authorities are already investigating two escrow accounts set up by Mr. Allen on Mr. Verma's behalf, in which the businessman deposited $205 million in cash in 2000, and a similar amount by wire transfer in 2004.

Eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that “the fact that Mr. Verma has sought refund of the money deposited with Mr. Allen, for which he has also brought a civil action against him in a U.S. court, warrants probe to identify the source.”

Mr. Verma's lawyers were unavailable for comment. However, Mr. Verma has earlier challenged Mr. Allen’s allegations in a Delhi court alleging that he forged emails to defame him.

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