The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday arrested Naresh Kumar Jain, an underworld money mover wanted in at least six countries including the US, the UK, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and the UAE, for allegedly facilitating illegal transfers worth over Rs 1 lakh crore over the past five-six years for several businessmen, drug mafia and other criminal networks, people familiar with the development said.
The agency has identified more than 942 bank accounts and 554 shell companies used by Jain for moving the money illegally. It has also traced at least 337 foreign bank accounts, largely based in Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore where huge transfers have been made over the years.
As of now, the ED has recovered documents pertaining to 970 beneficiaries in India including some top corporate honchos who used Jain’s network for laundering their dirty money worth around Rs 18,000 crore apart from a forex trading firm whose executives have already been summoned by the agency.
During searches at his two premises in Rohini and Vikaspuri in Delhi in 2018, the agency recovered documents pertaining to Rs 96,000 crore and Rs 11,800 crore worth hawala transactions, respectively, which were being analysed for the past few years. The ED had also recovered digital keys for several foreign accounts from Jain’s premises which suggested that his network was vast and he used telegraphic transfers apart from hawala channels for transferring money for the beneficiaries, said one of the officials cited above. Jain also allegedly used tour and travel firms for money transfers abroad.
“He is probably one of the biggest hawala dealers in the world having links in Europe, the US, Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan,” said an officer.
The 61-year old Naresh Kumar Jain, a native of Panipat (Haryana), had first fled India in 1995 and remained in Dubai till May 2009. He started a company – M/s Kumar Trading CO in Dubai and started trading in commodities.
Over a period of time he got into hawala transactions and would deliver any amount of money to any person in India, China or any other country across the globe. He invested either directly or through nominees and entities and made huge profits through transactions that were later termed as ‘wash’ or unreal transactions by the US government, according to the second officer cited above.
“Jain used the technique of ‘layering’- a money laundering technique that seeks to disguise the origin of funds. His network of money laundering through hawala transactions spread to Europe and even to African countries,” said this officer.
Jain’s name first cropped up in money laundering in Europe in 2004 when Italian investigators busted a network of Albanian narcotics traffickers that distributed heroin and cocaine throughout Italy and other European countries and then used a network of money remitters in Italy, UAE and Pakistan, to launder their drug proceeds, said the second officer.
“They utilised hawala transactions - the informal network of money remitting business commonly used in the Middle East to transfer money – to move their narcotic proceeds out of Italy and into a financial network based in the UAE, among other places. Jain controlled some or all of these hawala channels,” said a third officer.
He was first arrested by Dubai police on February 20, 2007 along with 39 other associates. He jumped bail and escaped to India via Nepal in May 2009.
The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) first arrested him in India in December 2009, on the basis of which the ED began investigating him for money laundering. He remained in jail for over a year.
According to information shared by the UK’s Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Dubai authorities, Italy and other countries with Indian counterparts over the years, Jain has a huge network in countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Turkey, Indonesia, Korea, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada and Afghanistan.
HT couldn’t locate Jain’s legal representatives.