A Special Task Force (STF) has been created in the Enforcement Directorate, the central agency that enforces the PMLA and FEMA laws in the country, to speed-up probing of money laundering cases emerging from illegal narcotics trade.
Officials said ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra has ordered for the creation of the first-ever STF in the agency and it will be headed by a special director-rank officer based at its headquarters in Delhi.
The STF team will comprise of a joint director, deputy directors and others as part of the new setup.
The force will specifically look into past and probable cases of illegal narcotics trade, drug crime syndicates and hawala transactions that have national and international links and such instances will be dealt under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they said.
The agency estimates that a number of terror financing cases have their roots in the illegal trade of narcotics transport, sale, purchase and smuggling and hence it was decided to work on these cases on priority and with dedicated focus.
The agency over the last one year has also obtained conviction in at least two such PMLA cases which were registered by it after taking cognisance of the predicate offence filed by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) or the police under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
The scheme of the anti-money laundering law mandates that the ED cannot independently file a criminal complaint under the PMLA but has to base its FIR on a predicate offence charged by any another law enforcement agency under the IPC or other laws.
All the past cases registered under this category (narcotics and drugs) and those to be taken up in the future will be dealt by the new STF which will have authority to conduct pan-India action, by taking assistance from Enforcement Directorate's zonal and regional offices across the country.
They said the ED is working on over two dozen such cases at present.
The central agency, that functions under the Union Finance Ministry, is empowered to enforce the PMLA and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in the country.