Investigations into the hawala (illegal transfer of money) angle in the Sarabjot Singh bribery case might run into rough weather because of a technical glitch.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is conducting investigations into the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The Act specifies that in corruption cases, the total value involved has to be Rs. 30 lakh or more.
In the Sarabjot case, the bribe demanded was Rs. 1 crore. However, Ram Rao Patil, the Nashik civic contractor from whom the bribe was demanded, could only arrange Rs. 1.25 lakh. So, the CBI had kept fake notes below genuine ones.
The CBI first arrested three people, including Anup Begi, who first collected the money from Patil at Chembur and took it to two alleged hawala operators — Madan Singh Solanki and Dukh Singh Chauhan at Mumbai Central.
Subsequently, the CBI brought Sarabjot from Delhi.
All four were released on bail last week.
The ED began investigations against Chauhan, who was arrested in the 1990s under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act, and also spent a year in jail. “Chauhan has previous record against him,” said an ED official, adding that once they get further evidence they would start investigations against the other accused.
The official added the ED investigation is at the preliminary stage and stringent action against the accused would be taken after the CBI files a charge sheet.
Officials also doubt whether the case would stand during the trial as the real currency seized was only Rs. 1.25 lakh. “We would have to collect strong evidence to corroborate that the accused’s intention was to collect Rs. 1 crore,” the official said.
Sujay Kantawala, senior counsel who practices PMLA cases, said the onus would be on prosecution to prove that the amount is not just Rs. 1.25 lakh but Rs. 1 crore. “The PMLA has clearly specified the amount which would cause a technical glitch for the ED,” he said.