The ED case against Peng stems from an Income Tax Department investigation of last year Credit: Representational image

New Delhi (PTI): The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested two Chinese nationals in connection with its money laundering probe linked to an alleged hawala racket worth an estimated Rs 1,000 crore that involved shell or dubious firms, official sources said on Sunday.

The central probe agency arrested Charlie Peng alias Luo Sang (42) and Carter Lee under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on January 15. They were produced before a local court here on Saturday that sent them to 14 days custody, they said.

The ED case against Peng stems from an Income Tax Department investigation of last year and an FIR filed by the Delhi Police special cell against him in 2018.

Peng’s name had cropped up last year in connection with the detention of two persons in Himachal Pradesh who were allegedly tracking Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s movement on his direction.

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The Chinese national and some of his alleged associates, including bankers, were raided by the Income Tax Department in August.

Peng, sources had alleged, had a fake Indian passport. Tax officials had claimed that he created a “web of sham companies to launder hawala funds to and from China” in the past two-three years.

The sources had said his front or showcase business was import and export of medical and electronic goods and some other items.

Peng, the sources said, was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police in September 2018 on charges of fraud and forgery and was allegedly running an illegal money changer.

Both ED and I-T department, sources had said, are also probing allegations if Peng was “bribing” some Tibetans living in Delhi.

In a statement in August last year, the CBDT had, without identifying the entities involved, stated that its searches were based on “credible inputs that a few Chinese individuals and their Indian associates were involved in money laundering and hawala transactions through a series of shell entities.”

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It had said the “subsidiary of Chinese company and its related concerns have taken over Rs 100 crore bogus advances from shell entities for opening businesses of retail showrooms in India”.

“Search action revealed that at the behest of Chinese individuals, more than 40 bank accounts were created in various dummy entities, entering into credits of more than Rs 1,000 crore over the period,” the CBDT had said.

“Incriminating documents of hawala transactions and money laundering with the active involvement of bank employees and Chartered Accountants have been found as a result of the search action,” it said.

Evidence of foreign hawala transactions involving Hong Kong and US dollars have also been unearthed, the CBDT had said.

Similar charges are being probed against Lee by the ED, they said.

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