In a major bust, the Hyderabad city police on Wednesday uncovered a massive ‘hawala’ racket, which involved the illegal transfer of money at different locations for the purpose of bribing voters ahead of the Telangana elections, which are scheduled to be held on December 7. The police said that they seized a net cash of Rs 7,51,10,300 at Rotary Circle near NTR Marg, under the jurisdiction of the Saifabad police.
The money was seized after a joint operation with the City Task Force, Flying Squads and Static Surveillance Teams, based on a tip off to the Commissioner of Police. Four people were arrested in the bust.
The accused were identified as 23-year-old Ashish Kumar, a businessman, Mohd Azam (31), Sunil Kumar Ahuja (50) and 46-year-old Bahbut Singh Raj Purohit. The police said that all four of them were businessmen. The police said that they seized two laptops, one counting machine, 30 cheque books belonging to various banks, several cell phones and even one .32 NP bore revolver, besides the net cash.
“The above mentioned hawala operators were working and planning to distribute several crore rupees in Telangana. This money is coming from other States and abroad through hawala channels illegally for use in the forthcoming Legislative Assembly Elections - 2018 in Telangana. Sometimes the amounts have been transferred online into the accounts of shell companies of hawala operators,” the police said in a press note.
To facilitate this, authorities said that the accused falsified documents and gave false declarations to open such bank accounts, thereby cheating the banks and the government. They also said that some accused involved in this process were still absconding.
“This money would have been used for bribing the voters involved in the election process. The seizure details are being intimated to the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department so that they can examine the trail of financial transactions and involvement of shell companies,” the press note added.
The police said that Sunil Kumar Ahuja was the kingpin of the racket while Ashish Kumar, who recently returned from the US in May this year, would look after the accounts.
The duo used to open bank accounts on the name of Mohd. Azam by furnishing fake documents and false declarations for which Azam collected his commission to make easy money, the police said.
“Because of the sensitivity and gravity of the case, it was decided to transfer the case to the Central Crime Station and entrust the investigation to a senior officer of the rank of ACP under the direct supervision of a DCP-rank officer. The Hyderabad City police is committed to ensuring a free and fair election process. We will not allow any individual or political party to influence the election by use of cash,” the police said.
“All such Hawala operators and those running shell companies are strictly warned that similar action will be taken against them for any such illegal practices by them. In the next few weeks, the checking of vehicles and lodges will be intensified further,” the authorities added.
The case has been registered under Sections 171b (Bribery), 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 420 (Cheating) read with 120–B (Party to a criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
However, following the FIR registered by the Telangana police, Sunil Kumar Ahuja and Anil Kumar Ahuja, accused 2 and 3 in the case, approached the Telangana High Court with a criminal petition appealing to quash the charges against them. Justice K Surendar passed an order to quash the criminal proceedings against them in the Magistrate court. The HC delivered the order saying that mere possession of money is not enough to prove that the accused had committed the offences charged against them.