ED Gets Custody Of Unitech Founder, His Daughter-In-Law In Money Laundering Probe
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), on October 5, 2021, got an approval from a court to Delhi to keep in its custody Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and his daughter-in-law Preeti Chandra, in a money laundering case involving siphoning of funds worth over Rs 2,000 crores by the builder company. The Delhi court also sent into ED custody Rajesh Malik, an executive of Carnoustie Management (India) Pvt, a shell company which is allegedly linked to the case.
While Preeti Chandra, the wife of jailed company promoter Sanjay Chandra, will be in the ED custody till October 8, Ramesh Chandra and Rajesh Malik will be in remand till October 9, and October 11, 2021, respectively.
Intensifying its probe in the Unitech money laundering case, the ED, on October 4, 2021, made three more arrests in the case. The ED is investigating how the company misused home buyers’ money to siphon Rs 2,000 crores to Cyprus and Cayman Islands.
ED Attaches Unitech Assets Worth Over Rs 30 Crores
October 1, 2021: The Enforcement Directorate (ED), on September 30, 2021, attached 29 land parcels in various sectors of Noida, owned by debt-ridden builder Unitech Group. According to ED estimates, the land parcels, measuring 13,600 sqm, were worth Rs 30.29 crores. The embattled company used homebuyers' money to acquire the ownership of these land parcels, the ED said.
Unitech Bosses Shifted To Mumbai Jails After ED Accuses Them Of Operating From Tihar
August 27, 2021: The Supreme Court, on August 26, 2021, directed jailed Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra to be shifted to separate jails in Mumbai, after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) informed it that the duo had been managing company affairs freely from within the jail premises, with assistance from jail authorities in Tihar.
The ED has also said that the Chandra brothers had been visiting the secret underground office in Delhi that their father and erstwhile Unitech promoters Ramesh Chandra had been running, each time they had been out on parole.
"During one of our search and seizure operations, we have unearthed a secret underground office, which is being used by Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons when they are out on parole or bail. We have recovered hundreds of original sale deeds from that office, hundreds of digital signatures and several computers which contain sensitive data with regard to their properties in India and abroad," additional solicitor-general Madhavi Divan, who appeared for the ED, told the SC.
While blasting the jail staff for colluding with the Chandras and undermining its jurisdiction, the SC also directed the Delhi police commissioner to hold a personal inquiry into the misconduct carried out by the Tihar jail superintendent and other staff.
“We are of the view that materials on record indicate that despite the orders of this court, activities are taking place within the premises of the Tihar Central jail, where the two accused are lodged, which have the propensity to undermine the authority of the court, as also to derail the investigations which have been ordered to be done by the ED including but not confined to the PMLA,” the SC said.
Unitech Case: SC Rejects Chandra Brothers’ Bail Plea
The Supreme Court on August 25, 2021, rejected the bail plea of Unitech Group promoters, Sanjay Chandra and his brother Ajay Chandra, saying it might consider their petition only after some money from the company’s bank accounts abroad come back to India.
"You will have to wait until and unless some money from foreign countries comes back...Your clients know where the money is," the two-judge SC bench told the lawyer representing the Unitech promoters.
Unitech Money Laundering Probe: ED Attaches London Hotel
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), on July 30, 2021, attached a London hotel worth Rs 58.61 crores, while probing the money laundering case against beleaguered real estate company Unitech. The hotel, by the name Bed and Breakfast, is owned by UK-based Carnoustie Group through its subsidiary, Ibournshorne Limited.
Unitech allegedly diverted Rs 325 crores in this hotel, from money it collected from homebuyers to complete their housing projects. The money was used to buy the shares of Ibounshorne Limited in the name of Carnoustie Management India Private Limited, another arm of the Carnoustie Group. The value of attachment in the Unitech case, says the ED, now stands at Rs 595.61 crores.
Unitech Case: ED Seizes Properties Worth Over Rs 106 Cr In Money-Laundering Case
Intensifying its action against embattled real estate developer Unitech Group, the Enforcement Directorate, on July 7, 2021, attached its prime land parcels located in Gurugram. The three land parcels, which the federal enforcement agency has attached under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), are worth over 106 crores. With the latest seizure, the total worth of properties that has been attached in the Unitech case now stands at over Rs 537 crores.
"These parcels had been purchased by two dummy entities of the Chandras, namely Erode Projects Pvt Limited and Kore communities Pvt Limited, from the companies of Unitech Group. Both these companies are controlled by the promoters of Unitech Group and proceeds of crime have been transferred to these companies after substantial layering in Singapore and the Cayman Islands," the ED said.
Earlier in 2021, the enforcement agency attached a helicopter and over 100 land parcels in Mumbai, worth a total of Rs 81 crores, in connection with the money-laundering probe against realty company Unitech. The ED probe is based on several First Information Reports (FIRs) lodged by homebuyers against the real estate developer and its promoters, Sanjay and Ajay Chandra, with the Delhi Police. According to the ED, the Chandras illegally diverted over Rs 2,000 crores to Cyprus and the Cayman Islands, while failing to deliver housing projects despite collecting advances from homebuyers.
Readers may recall here that the Supreme Court, on June 4, 2021, offered an interim bail of 15 days to Sanjay Chandra to attend the last rites of his deceased father-in-law, while rejecting his lawyer's plea to grant the former Unitech promoter some more time on humanitarian grounds. Sanjay was also granted an interim bail by the apex court for a month in 2020, when his parents has tested positive for Coronavirus.
Unitech Case: ED Seizes Properties Worth Over Rs 150 Cr
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), on March 30, 2021, attached Unitech Group-owned properties, worth over Rs 150 crores under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Among the assets that the agency attached, were 12 land parcels in Haryana’s Gurugram, a market where the company was highly active, while it expanded.
The ED's move comes days after it raided nearly 35 premises owned by the builder in various locations of Delhi and Mumbai and unearthed a large network of proxy companies, established by Unitech, to facilitate an alleged financial fraud involving Rs 2,000 crores.
"The registered value of these land pieces comes to Rs 152.48 crores and these are owned by the promoters of Unitech Group through proxy or benami entities like Crown Infra Projects Pvt Ltd, Kore Communities India and Joshu Gurgaon. These three companies are part of one Trikar Group/Kore Group, which is a benami investment of the Chandra family of Unitech Group," the ED said.
According to the ED, funds were transferred through Singapore-based companies like Joshu, Trikar Residential Developers and Trikar Property Opportunities, during 2015-2020, to purchase the land parcels that were attached on March 30.
"The source of funds in these companies was from a Cayman Island-based entity, namely Trikar Fund Limited, which is being controlled by the Chandra family through another Cayman-based entity, Trikar Asset Management," the ED said.
On March 19, 2021, the Supreme Court rebuked the Delhi High Court and a trial court magistrate, for agreeing to hear the bail plea of the Chandras who have been serving time in Delhi’s Tihar jail since 2017. On several occasions, the SC has consistently denied their bail pleas, including the latest denial in August 2020.
Coming down heavily on the HC and the trail court, the SC said: “When we have specifically rejected bail in August (2020), how can the magistrate grant them bail? It is shocking... even more shocking that the order of the HC and the lower court mentioned the proceedings in the SC and they were aware of the order.”
“Howe dare the HC grant them the liberty to approach a trial court and how dare the magistrate pass the order granting them bail in the face or our order? It is shocking to see the audacity of the magistrate. We are deeply pained," it added.
Delhi HC Denies Jailed Unitech MD Blanket Permission To Attend Mediation Meets
In a move that might delay the process of dispute settlement for the embattled Unitech Group, the Delhi High Court, on October 26, 2020, refused to offer its jailed MD the permission to be physically present at a mediation centre in New Delhi.
MD Sanjay Chandra, who has been serving jail time in the national capital’s Tihar Jail, had approached to court, to seek a blanket permission to be produced at the Patiala House Courts Complex in New Delhi, in order to attend mediation meetings with homebuyers. The HC said that no such order was possible. The HC, however, directed Chandra to move the trial courts concerned, which could allow him the permission to attend these meetings on a case-to-case basis, in accordance with the law.
Unitech Can Complete Stuck Projects In 4 Years: SC-Appointed Board
In a move that would come as some relief to over 16,000 homebuyers who are currently invested in embattled Unitech Group’s 86 stuck projects, a Supreme Court-appointed board has ruled out any winding up of the company. The board has also suggested a roadmap, under which the company could raise an estimated Rs 5,000 crore, required to complete the pending projects within a four-year timeline.
The proposal might be finalised after the SC, which is scheduled to hear the Unitech case on July 23, 2020, gives it a go-ahead.
Earlier, the SC has granted bailed to company boss Sanjay Chandra, after his parents tested Corona-positive. His brother Ajay Chandra is still in Tihar jail.
The Supreme Court (SC) on January 20, 2020, accepted the government's move to take control of the management of embattled real estate company Unitech. The apex court has granted the new board two months' time, to prepare a resolution plan while also offering it a two-month moratorium from any legal proceedings against the company's management.
On January 18, 2020, the Centre had informed the top court that it was willing to take over the company and its stuck projects, in a move that would come as a relief for as many as 12,000 homebuyers. The government has, however, made it clear that the funds required to complete the stuck projects, must be arranged by selling Unitech’s unsold housing stock and unencumbered assets and by collecting dues from homebuyers.
“The government has the right to refer the company to liquidation in case the assigned takeover is not viable in the absence of requisite resources,” the government said in its submission to the top court while seeking a 12-month moratorium period.
"This court may issue directions to restrain the promoters from alienating, mortgaging, creating charge or lien or interest in the movable and immovable properties owned by them," the government said, adding, services of the panel appointed to sell the company's assets be put on rest.
In 2017, the government had moved the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to take control of the real estate developers after company promoters Sanjay Chandra and his brother Ajay Chandra were arrested on charges on siphoning off funds collected from banks and financial institutions. Accepting the government plea, the NCLT suspended Unitech directors and restrained them selling their company and personal assets.
The government move to take over Unitech was, however, thwarted when the SC, in December that year, stayed the NCLT order. Subsequently, The Centre withdrew its application from the tribunal.
A forensic order of the Noida-based builder and its subsidiaries, carried out on the directions of the top court in 2018, showed that Unitech used nearly Rs 5,063 crore of Rs 14,270 crore it collected from 29,800 homebuyers between 2006 and 2014 for building 74 projects, to make high-value investments in tax havens. The same was done with around Rs 763 crore of the Rs 1,805 crore it borrowed from six banks.
Noida Authority Cancels Land Allotment To Unitech For Not Paying Dues
October 31, 2019: In a move against crisis-hit realtor Unitech for non-payment of dues worth Rs 1,203 crore, the Noida Authority on October 21, 2019, cancelled the allotment of a group housing property in Sector 113. The real estate group had also come up with 17 towers in the area, without getting the map cleared by the authority, in violation of the Noida Building Regulation, 2010, it said.
According to the Noida Authority, Unitech was served a notice on August 24, 2019, and multiple other notices prior to that, in which it was asked to clear the pending dues. It could not present any satisfactory explanation within the stipulated time limit and hence the action has been taken.
The Group is also accused of trying to have an agreement to sell this land to M/s Sethi Residents and M/s GMA Developers, making them third-party, without seeking the authority's permission.
NBCC Ready To Oversee Unitech's Stalled Projects, Centre Informs SC
September 6, 2019: After getting the responsibility to complete all stuck projects of insolvency-hit Amrapali Group, state-led NBCC Ltd (earlier known as National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited) may turn the saviour for about 16,000 homebuyers, who have invested in various projects of embattled Unitech Ltd. The centre, on July 29, 2019, informed the Supreme Court (SC) that the public construction company was willing to take up the role of project management consultant, to complete the pending projects of the real estate company that has an outstanding debt of Rs 6,000 crores. NBCC will not directly involve itself in the construction but recruit a third-party to do the work; its role would be entirely of an overseer. Assets of the cash-strapped developer company would be sold, to finance the construction work.
The government has also told the SC that a high-powered panel would be established, to ensure that the projects are completed in a time-bound manner. In the meantime, all facilities extended to jailed company promoters, Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra, have been withdrawn owing to their non-cooperation in an ongoing forensic audit. In 2017, the top court had directed the Tihar jail authorities, where the brothers are lodged, to facilitate Chandras’ meeting with company officials, so that they could arrange money for refunding buyers, as well as completing projects.
The Chandras were denied parole, as they had failed to deposit the entire bail money (they had deposited Rs 481 crores of the Rs 750 crores that they were obliged to). In December 2018, the SC had ordered a forensic audit of the company and its subsidiary companies, over the alleged financial irregularities and diversion of homebuyers' funds. Of the 74 construction projects undertaken by the embattled realtor, as many as 61 are incomplete, affecting about 16,300 homebuyers. The forensic audit is expected to be carried out in various phases.
Relief for Uniworld project buyers
September 5, 2019: Coming to the rescue of 33 buyers who had booked flats in the Uniworld project in Noida Sector 117, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has asked Unitech to complete construction within nine months and hand over the possession to them, along with an eight per cent interest for the delay. The interest would be counted from the date committed for delivery of possession till the day on which the possession would be offered. The apex consumer panel also directed Unitech to pay Rs 50,000 as litigation cost to the complainants.
Flats in the Uniworld project were sold starting 2009, and the builder promised delivery in 2012.
NCDRC tells Unitech to refund over Rs 1 crore to homebuyers
August 27, 2019: The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has asked Unitech to refund over Rs 1 crore to two buyers for a six-year delay in giving possession of their apartments. The company has been asked to refund the buyers within three months, along with a 10 per cent per annum interest on the principal amount and Rs 25,000 litigation cost. The buyers, D Rameshbabu and Swaroop Nandakumar, had booked a flat in Unitech's Gurugram project, The Exquisite' Nirvana Country 2, in 2010 and were promised delivery in 2013.
With inputs from Housing.com News