Kerala HC seeks Centre’s reply to appeal filed by lottery king Santiago Martin against ED’s orders

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Lottery king Santiago Martin has filed an appeal in the Kerala High Court against the recent dismissal of his plea by the same court, challenging the Enforcement Directorate’s attachment orders on his personal and company’s movable assets under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). On August 17, the Division Bench of Chief Justice A.J. Desai and Justice V.G. Arun, consequently, directed the Centre to file its reply to the appeal.

The matter was previously heard on August 8 when senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Ramesh Babu, representing Martin, claimed that the attachment orders issued by ED exceeded the proceeds of crime of Martin and his company, the petitioners.

Martin and his company are accused of being involved in money laundering and the ED raided his premises in May, freezing assets worth Rs 910.29 crore. Rohatgi and Babu argued that ED estimated the amount to be around Rs 464 crore but the amount was doubled in the attachment orders.

Subsequently, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas dismissed the initial plea by Martin and instructed him to first exhaust the three-tier remedy provided under the PMLA for his grievances.

In the latest appeal, counsels representing Martin claimed that the court’s approach was flawed as ED’s actions were arbitrary, lacking in good cause to trust them. Furthermore, they were also beyond their authority under the PMLA.

They further contested the ruling, arguing that the reliance of the court on Section 25 of the Partnership Act was wrong. Martin’s counsels noted that neither at the beginning of the proceedings nor at any stage thereafter, the ED had used Section 25 in their counter-affidavit or in any other manner.

“In the facts and circumstances of the case Appellants have no equally efficacious alternative remedy. In any event in cases where the actions/orders are ex-facie without Jurisdiction, and there is material to infer that the actions/orders are malafide in law the availability of alternative remedy would not bar the Writ Jurisdiction,” the appeal stated as per LiveLaw.

“The other way of examining the matter is if the requirements of recording reasons to believe (under Section 5 (1) and 8 (1) of the PMLA) are in the nature of safeguards and if a citizen is deprived of such safeguards the Writ would be maintainable,” it further stated.

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