New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) The ED case against former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in INX Media focuses on abuse of power.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) finds that the accused and his co-conspirators are not only trying to tamper/destruct the evidence, but are also influencing the witnesses. They reckon that the investigation has reached a very crucial stage where the evidence requires to be protected and preserved and the witnesses are required to be insulated from the influence of the accused who are high and mighty.
The petitioner-accused, apart from being a former Finance Minister and former Home Minister, also wields substantial and pervasive influence over the witnesses. It is found that the petitioner-accused and/or his co-conspirators at his behest, have changed the share holding pattern of the shell companies as well as have made changes in the Directors of such shell companies during the investigation so as to distance himself and his family from the money already laundered and invested.
It is also found that one bank account of one of the shell companies is closed and another bank account is opened by a co-conspirator. The investigating agency has also received information about the sale of properties purchased out of the laundered money by one shell company to another shell company.
The welter of evidence has been corroborated by the Financial Inteligence Unit (FIU) which lays bare the fraud and malfeasance in great detail — FIU has given specific inputs of the petitioner-accused and his co-conspirators having accounts/valuable properties in Argentina, Austria, British Virginia Island, France, Greece, Malaysia, Monaco, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and Sri Lanka.
The details of the transactions pertaining to the investment made through shell companies/co-conspirators/associates of the petitioner-accused are received from the FIU, which is part of the officially maintained case record (which this Hon’ble Court may peruse before passing/continuing any further order/s) for which the investigation is ongoing and the petitioner-accused needs to be arrested and confronted with the said transactions.
Further, decoding the entire process till date, ED states in the affidavit — The investigating agency has also received information about the petitioner-accused and his co-conspirators having influenced the witnesses and attempts are made of falsification and/or tampering of the documents. These are not the bald assertions of the investigating agency, but can be shown to the Hon’ble Court from the case record statutorily maintained by the statutory investigation agencies.
At this juncture, it is respectfully pointed out that the above referred facts are pointed out for satisfying the conscience of this Hon’ble Court about the bona fide need for arrest and of custodial interrogation of the petitioner-accused.
Secondly, when the statute, namely PMLA, permits the arrest of an accused on satisfaction of conditions under Section 19 of the said Act, the Court would only examine whether the germane material exists to arrive at “reasons to believe” as stipulated under Section 19 of the Act and the Court would not go into either adequacy or sufficiency of such material at the time of deciding a prayer for anticipatory bail.
It is respectfully submitted that considering the very object, intent and purpose of a salutary legislation like PMLA, the judicial intervention at the stage of anticipatory bail in particular and investigation in general would be very very restrictive as the offence under the Act is an offence against the nation and if cumulative effect is considered, it has serious adverse impact on the economy of the country and financial integrity of the nation.
It is respectfully submitted that one of the arguments being raised by the accused is that the offence in question is of the year 2007-08. It is respectfully submitted that in the present investigation, the agency viz. the Enforcement Directorate is concerned with the offence of laundering of money and it has no relevance with the period during which the scheduled offence is committed.
It has come on record after the registration of ECIR dated 18.5.2017 by the ED that money laundering has taken place and is taking place and the accused and his co-conspirators/beneficiaries are still using/enjoying/laundering the proceeds of crime. This argument is, therefore, an argument without any legal substance or merit.
Chidambaram, instead of praying for anticipatory bail, filed a writ petition in the high court challenging constitutional validity of some of the provisions of PMLA and sought interim protection.
Though it is a settled position that merely because an accused of a serious offence challenges the validity of some provisions, he would not be granted interim protection of pre-arrest bail, the division bench of the high court proceeded to afford such protection.
The investigating agencies have challenged the said order before this Hon’ble Court. Considering the nature of the challenge, the nature of the proceedings filed by Karti Chidambaram and the chronology of events pointed out in the said SLP, this Hon’ble Court, in its judicial wisdom, straightaway withdrew the matter from the high court for being heard by this Hon’ble Court.
It is respectfully submitted that apart from the fact that the protection granted to the key co-conspirators of petitioner-accused namely Karti Chidambaram by the High Court was without even looking at the evidence collected by the investigating agency, the petitioner-accused cannot claim any parity as in the present proceedings which are emanating from the prayer made under Section 438 Cr PC, not only high court has examined the record of the case which includes evidence, but this Hon’ble Court will also examine the cogent evidence collected so far on record and will examine the justification for arrest and interrogation of the present petitioner-accused.
I state and submit that the reliance placed upon an order of regular bail passed by the trial court in case of a co-accused, namely Bhaskar Raman, is also misplaced and untenable. It is submitted that Bhaskar Raman got regular bail after many days of being arrested.
Secondly, as this Hon’ble Court will find on perusal of the record, the role of the present petitioner-accused and the said Bhaskar Raman are completely different and no parity can be claimed even on facts.
In any view of the matter when, in the present case, the high court has rejected an anticipatory bail after perusing the case record and the matter is being examined by the highest court of the country reliance placed upon the regular bail order passed by the trial court itself is unsustainable.