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Saturday, July 4, 1998

Ashok Jain arrested 

Mumbai, July 3: The enforcement directorate finally arrested media baron Ashok Kumar Jain, chairman of Bennett Coleman and Company, owner of the Times of India group of newspapers, for alleged Fera violations running into crores of rupees.

After 18 months of wrangling in various courts, the ED, Delhi, on Friday arrested Jain from his Carmichael Road residence in Mumbai.

While in ED's custody, Jain complained of chest pain, and was to be admitted to the ICU of the JJ Hospital late in the afternoon.

ED produced Jain before additional chief metropolitan magistrate RB Chorge who remanded Jain to judicial custody till July 6. One jail guard and a guard from the ED were posted outside the ICU where Jain is admitted. The ED's prayer to remove Jain elsewhere will be considered on Monday. He has been allowed home-cooked food. The dean of the JJ Hospital has been directed to report on Jain's health to the court on Monday.

The remand application filed by the ED alleges that Jain is avoiding presence before theED and is likely to "go beyond the clutches of law and tamper with evidence."

The ED has been investigating the alleged Fera violations in the transfer of $1.25 million (Rs 4 crore) into a foreign account in 1992-93, besides the alleged transfer of $21,000 to one MM Sehgal abroad. Another transfer of $11,000 to the solicitors of Geard and Davis of USA is also under scrutiny.

The remand application alleges that the ED issued a memorandum to Jain for alleged Fera violations involving $11.2 million.

The ED has been pursuing the case against Jain with the arrest of Keshav Bangur of the Bank of Rajasthan. After Bangur's arrest in 1996 for fraud, the ED apparently started investigations into the transfer of Rs 4 crore in foreign currency (consideration for shares of BoR) abroad through one Arun Kumar Bajoria.

Jain's feud with the ED reached its climax last year when the ED raided his residence in Delhi on January 4, 1997. While the search was still on, Jain apparently suffered a heart attack. The ED,however, knew that he was to board a flight for the US that night. Even as the ED team reached the IG airport to arrest Jain, a call was received from revenue secretary NK Singh, instructing the ED officers to let Jain go.

Since then, Jain had been maintaining that he was too ill to submit for questioning, and the ED continued to contest his claims of illness. Jain was also questioned in All India Institute of Medical Sciences several times in 1997.

The Supreme Court, however, in an order in January 1998 lifted the curbs imposed by the Dehli High Court on the ED in respect of questioning of Jain. The SC said the ED was well within its right in deciding where to question Jain and could be trusted to take requisite care of his medical needs.

Jain was also allowed to leave the country in February this year for a bypass surgery. Since his return on May 31, the ED has issued four summons requiring him to appear before its Delhi office on June 1, 17, 23 and July 2.His failure to respond to those summonsresulted in his arrest on Friday.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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