Karnataka HC stays ED’s money laundering probe into Church of South India trust

The ED had claimed that defence land was illegally leased out by CSITA to All Saints Church.
All Saints Church
All Saints Church
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The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday stayed the Enforcement Directorate’s probe into the "illegal" transfer of land by the Church of South India Trust to All Saints Church in Bengaluru. The Defense Ministry and ED has alleged that the land transfer was illegal as the land “leased” out belonged to the Ministry of Defence.

Speaking to TNM, BM Arun, advocate for CSITA, said that Senior Counsel BV Acharya, who appeared for the hearing on behalf of the Church, furnished documents dating back to 1884. 

“We categorically told the court that the land belongs to CSITA by furnishing documents dating back to 1884. The property was given to CSITA as a grant by the government of India’s Ministry of Defence after the then Maharaja of Mysuru made a representation. We also furnished records that were signed by the then Commissioner of the Bangalore Municipal Council,” BM Arun said. 

The High Court stayed the ED’s probe indefinitely and also stayed the investigation by the Ashok Nagar Police in Bengaluru. On August 17 this year, the Quartermaster General of the Defence Department had filed a complaint with the Ashok  Nagar Police stating that CSITA had allegedly illegally transferred land belonging to the Ministry of Defence. An FIR was registered on the same day. 

On September 9, based on the Ashok Nagar Police’s probe, the Enforcement Directorate attached properties of CSITA worth Rs 60 crore. The ED attached assets in the form of fixed deposits maintained and available with the State Bank of India and it had launched a probe under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).

The ED had said that the investigation was initiated against the CSITA for allegedly "dishonestly" entering into an arrangement for transfer of the title of a piece of land measuring 7426.886 square metres belonging to the Ministry of Defence.

BM Arun, said that the High Court has allowed the ED’s attachment to continue until the case concludes. The next hearing is on November 4, where the High Court has asked ED’s counsel to file objections to the stay order, if any. 

“The case will conclude after the ED files objections. We are waiting for final orders from the court. If the court rules in our favour, the properties attached will also be returned,” Bm Arun added. 

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