In the first case of money laundering charges being slapped for violation of the Trade Marks Act in the country, the Enforcement Directorate has seized Rs 7 crore assets of two Chhattisgarh based firms for allegedly fake branding of public sector SAIL.
The agency has seized two office buildings, five flats, one plot and two luxury cars, an Audi and a BMW, of two Raipur based firms-- Ms Alankar Alloys Pvt Ltd and Ms Pankaj Ispat Ltd-- for "illegally manufacturing" SAIL brand TMT bars in their factories in the state.
The case dates back to April 2013 when Steel Authority of India (SAIL) lodged a formal complaint with the Chhattisgarh police stating that these firms were allegedly indulging in fake branding of its name which has not only caused damage to the reputation of one of the largest iron and steel makers of the country but was also making it loose money.
The ED's zonal office in the Chhattisgarh capital registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognisance of the police FIR and its probe till now has found that both the accused firms have allegedly laundered huge sums of money in violation of the Trade Marks Act, 1999.
This is the first time that the central probe agency has taken cognisance of a money laundering instance in a crime which is not registered under the usual criminal or anti-corruption laws but under the Trade Marks protection laws.
The ED, according to the notice accessed by PTI, found the 'SAIL brand TMT rods' were being made clandestinely and were being sold at "inflated costs" outside the state through a firm registered in the name of Ms Baid Steel Pvt Ltd, Raipur.