Justice Yashwant Varma also sought the stand of the investigating agency on Vivo’s petition against the freezing of its bank accounts in connection with a money-laundering probe initiated by it.
“Mr. Zoheb Hossain, learned counsel appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, is requested to obtain instructions in respect of the reliefs as prayed in the writ petition,” said the court as it directed that the matter be listed for further consideration on July 13.
“In the meanwhile and bearing in mind the financial constraints which are expressed in the writ petition and are also set forth in the representation of July 7, 2022, the court directs the respondent to attend to that representation in light of the power of according prior permission to deal with the seized property as in envisaged (in the PMLA Act),” ordered the court.
Senior advocates Sidharth Luthra and Siddharth Agarwal, appearing for the Vivo, submitted that the freezing of the bank accounts has brought the functioning of the petitioner to a standstill and there are crores of rupees that have to be paid as statutory dues apart from the payment of salaries to its employees.
Advocate Zoheb Hossain, who represented the ED, informed the court that the search operation would conclude during the course of the day and that the present petition was premature.
The petitioner should await the conclusion of the statutory processes, he said.
The urgent listing of Vivo’s plea was allowed earlier in the day by a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad.
The probe agency, on July 5, raided several places across the country in the money laundering investigation against Vivo and related firms. The searches were carried out under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in several states, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Maharashtra.
Vivo, in its petition, has sought to set aside the ED’s orders to freeze its bank accounts.
“Due to the amounts in the bank accounts being unavailable to the petitioner, the petitioner will be unable to pay its statutory dues (such as customs duties, GST, TDS, etc) to various authorities, as well as other expenses (such as salaries, rent, etc) because of which its business has now been set on a path towards a commercial and civil death,” the petition said.
The ED has filed the money laundering case after taking cognisance of a recent FIR of Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing against a distributor of an agency based in Jammu and Kashmir where it was alleged that a few Chinese shareholders in that company forged their identity documents.
The ED suspects this alleged forgery was done to launder illegally generated funds using shell or paper companies and some of these “proceeds of crime” were diverted to stay under the radar of Indian tax and enforcement agencies.