Hasan Ali Khan Produced in Court

Mumbai, March 8 (IANS) Vada paav and ordinary tap water... it was a long way from luxury and home for Pune-based stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan, who was produced in court Tuesday after his arrest in the early hours of the morning and then sent to hospital following complaints of uneasiness.

Khan, who is said to have stashed away $8 billion (Rs.36,000 crore) abroad and is allegedly India's biggest tax defaulter, was produced before Principal Sessions judge M.L. Tahaiyani by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that had arrested him.

Khan was brought here from Pune late Monday night and taken straight to the ED offices for questioning.

Though officially he was declared as "held" and not detained, the situation changed within hours and he was placed under arrest early Tuesday.

He was grilled non-stop by various teams of ED sleuths for several hours together on different aspects of his wealth, informed sources said.

A couple of hours after his arrest, the visibly tired Khan asked for something to eat.

An ED official, the sources said, nodded to an aide who went out and brought in a couple of vada-paavs, the humble potato patty slapped between two buns.

When the billionaire looked at the humble Mumbaikars' favourite snack incredulously, the ED official, according to the sources, said this was the only thing available at that hour.

Apparently, Khan did not relish the idea of the vada-paavs and instead settled to drink some water from a bottle kept nearby - ordinary, Mumbai tap water.

He drank water several times during his interrogation Tuesday morning and, at one point, the sources said, he was practically on his knees - pleading innocence and claiming he was being framed.

Later, on at least two occasions, Khan complained of chest pain, headaches, giddiness, breathlessness, and he was taken for medical check-up.

Finally, when he was scheduled to be taken to the magistrate's court near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station, he again complained of chest pain and headache.

Gone were his designers suits and branded shoes - he was dressed in a plain white kurta and trousers - as he was rushed from the ED office at Nariman Point to the Sir J.J. Hospital, with the stern and expressionless sleuths in tow.

Earlier, he had been taken to St. George Hospital for the mandatory post-arrest medical check-up before he was confined to a room in the ED office and interrogated.

On Monday, the ED raided Khan's Pune home before bringing him to Mumbai for further questioning.

The ED and other agencies investigating the money laundering racket are also likely to open some bank lockers in his presence in Mumbai, an official told IANS requesting anonymity.

This was the second time Khan was raided, the previous one being in January 2007.

Among other things, Khan is suspected to have stashed away around $8 billion in Swiss bank accounts, transferred cash and assets out of the country through dubious means and evaded taxes on income with a suspected liability of over Rs.40,000 crore.

Recently, the ED issued summons to him to appear before it March 10 while he was quizzed by the Income Tax Department last month in connection with notices served to him in December 2008.

The ED has also issued look-out notices against Khan to ensure he does not flee the country.



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