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Money laundering case: Court refuses bail to NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew

The Enforcement Directorate said the Bhujbals are politically influential and if released on bail, there are chances that witnesses may turn hostile

mumbai Updated: Dec 19, 2017 10:31 IST
Charul Shah
Charul Shah
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Chhagan Bhujbal,Enforcement Directorate
Chhagan Bhujbal.(HT FILE)

The special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court rejected the bail plea of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew Sameer Bhujbal.

Chhagan Bhujbal, the former public works department minister, was arrested in March 2016 in the Maharashtra Sadan scam case.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing the case, said Bhujbal and his associates misused their designation and entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat and cause the government financial losses by sanctioning development projects. It was also alleged that Chhagan Bhujbal accepted kickbacks through the firms of his relatives and employees.

The two had moved separate pleas through advocate Shalabh Saxena in July, seeking bail in the case, claiming that they have no role in the scam and that the investigation is over. Chhagan Bhujbal, in his bail plea, had claimed that he was a victim of political and business rivalry.

Citing the letter written by the public works department (PWD) of the state government to the anti-corruption bureau, Chhagan Bhujbal said it clearly mentioned that there was no illegality in awarding the Maharashtra Sadan project.

The two also had cited the recent Supreme Court’s ruling which termed the provision under section 45 of PMLA Act unconstitutional. The provision restricted granting bail to accused booked under the Act for charges in which punishment is three years and more.

The counsel for ED, Hiten Venegaokar, contested the claim.

He said that Chhagan Bhujbal has played a pivotal role in the scam and the investigation into the source of money laundering is pending.

The agency claimed that the total money laundered was Rs857 crore while the agency has managed to attach properties worth Rs156 crore only.

“The huge cash generation was possible because Chhagan Bhujbal was occupying a high position in the government. The money generated through the Chhagan Bhujbal’s illegal activities has been laundered through the companies of Sameer Bhujbal and Pankaj Bhujbal as well as through other Bhujbal-controlled companies,” the agency said.

Opposing the defense’s arguments, Venegaokar said the Bhujbals are politically influential people and if they are released on bail, there are chances that the witnesses may turn hostile.

Unlike other criminal cases, where the prosecution argues to prove the accused innocent, those charged under the PMLA themselves have to give proof of them being non-guilty. Section 24 of PMLA clearly states this rule. The Bhujbals have not been able to prove their innocence.

“Out of Rs857 crore laundered, the accused still have not explained the source of around Rs830 crore,” said the ED.

ED is investigating their investments out of the country, especially transactions related to purchase of mines.

First Published: Dec 19, 2017 10:30 IST