x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Money-laundering probe ordered into Dubai businessman Oberoi

A court in India has ordered a government agency to look into whether allegations of money laundering against a Dubai businessman hold merit.

DUBAI // An Indian court has asked a government intelligence agency to look into allegations of money laundering against a Dubai-based businessman who has paid millions of dirhams in blood money to free several Indian convicts in UAE jails.

The Directorate of Enforcement in New Delhi has been asked to “expeditiously” investigate whether SP Singh Oberoi, chairman of Dubai Grand Hotel and Apex Group of Companies, and his family members have violated India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

Last year, Mr Oberoi, who has been dubbed a philanthropist, helped raise Dh3.4 million in blood money to enable 17 men who were convicted of murder escape death row in Sharjah.

“The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered the Enforcement Directorate to see if there is any merit to the allegations of money laundering made by the petitioner, Vijay Pal Singh,” Mr Singh’s solicitor said.

Mr Oberoi yesterday denied the accusations.

“I am not involved in any money laundering,” he said, speaking from India. “I have given millions of dirhams in charity. If I wanted to hide the money, why would I give donations?”

He said he has paid blood money to free over 35 Indian prisoners.

“There are proper bank records for all the blood money payments. I have provided the income tax department with the source of my income,” he said, adding that he plans to sue the petitioner for defamation.

The businessman said he had paid most of the Dh3.4 million blood money on behalf of the Sharjah death-row Indians, and that his charity work was to “assist people in need.”

The Directorate of Enforcement is tasked with preventing money laundering - defined as concealing the source of illegally obtained money - and enforcement of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, which regulates the flow of foreign currency to and from India.

“The ED (Enforcement Directorate) has to decide on the allegations within the next two months,” said Mr Singh’s counsel.

The high court directed the agency last week to “decide the representation made by the petitioner alleging violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999” within the next two months. Mr Singh said he had approached the agency in 2010, adding that they had not acted on his complaint.

“The case is under initial investigations,” said V Neeraja, deputy director of the Directorate of Enforcement. “We started investigations even before the court order.”

Mr Singh, a former business associate of Mr Oberoi, said, “The blood money payments he has made is all black money. I have documents to prove that he and his family have 126 bank accounts.”

However, Mr Oberoi said, “What would I do with so many bank accounts? I run a clean business.”

pkannan@thenational.ae