India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested the alleged ringleader of a trade-based money laundering (TBML) operation involving 57 shell entities.

Muhammed Riyaz, a proprietor of Astral Exim and other companies, allegedly operated an array of accounts at various banks.

Multiple bank accounts

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigated the case in which allegedly fraudulent foreign exchange outward remittances or transactions exceeding the equivalent of around US$526 million flowed through shell company current accounts opened at a branch of Syndicate Bank in Chennai. 

Riraz allegedly opened many more accounts at several banks using fake identity documents to give the impression that the accounts were to serve legitimate trading entities.

Remittances were made to Syndicate Bank from various accounts opened and maintained by the fraudsters across India.

Fabricated documents

False documents were then used at Syndicate Bank to transfer foreign exchange abroad that purported to be advance payments against imports.

The ED says it recovered many identity documents from homes belonging to Riyaz, who has been remanded in jail.