PMLA | Search, seizure and retention of property pertaining to offence of money laundering requires compliance with provisions of PMLA, 2002

Appellate Tribunal for SAFEMA, FEMA, PMLA, NDPS & PBPT Act: A Coram of Manmohan Singh (Chairman), J. and G.C. Mishra (Member) set aside the Adjudicating Authority’s order allowing retention of seized property, on the ground of non-compliance of provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

An investigation was initiated on the basis of a notice issued by the Income Tax Department under Black Money Act, 2015 against one Sanjay Bhandari for not disclosing his foreign assets for the purpose of taxation before the tax authorities. Since the appellant had received a certain sum as legal fees for advice rendered to Sanjay Bhandari, a search and seizure was initiated against him pursuant to which the respondent prayed for retention of seized property. Appellant objected to the same stating that the seized material was not connected with the proceedings related to Sanjay Bhandari. Adjudicating Authority allowed retention of documents under Section 17(4) PMLA vide order dated 26-05-2017. Hence, the present appeal.

The Tribunal noted that neither any report against the appellant had been forwarded to the Magistrate, nor had any complaint against the appellant been filed before a Magistrate. It was observed that the prescribed period for filing prosecution complaint is ninety days. But in the present case, no prosecution complaint had been filed even after almost a year and ten months had passed. Further, Section 8(3)(a) of PMLA provides that attachment or retention of seized property shall continue during an investigation for a period not exceeding ninety days. The said prescribed period had already expired as more than a year had elapsed but the properties and records had not been returned so far which was in clear violation of the provisions of PMLA.

It was opined that if a particular thing is to be done in a particular manner, it must be done in that way and none other. Reliance in this regard was placed on Dipak Babaria v. State of Gujarat, (2014) 3 SCC 502.

In view of the above, the appeal was allowed directing the respondent to return seized documents/records to the appellant.[Sanjeev Kapoor v. Deputy Director, Directorate of Enforcement, Delhi, 2019 SCC OnLine ATPMLA 8, decided on 09-04-2019]

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