Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Supreme Court issues notice in plea for anticipatory bail by businessman accused of money laundering

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The Supreme Court has issued notice on Wednesday in a plea by a man seeking anticipatory bail in a money laundering crime committed allegedly through fake and fictitious firms. 

Appearing for the appellant before the bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Abhay S. Oka, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra submitted that the amount of the so-called proceeds of crime (Rs 20 lakh) has been taken over and they have documents and certificates which prove that the goods were delivered.

At the beginning, Luthra admitted the fact that they should have challenged the summoning order against the petitioner rather than pleading for anticipatory bail at this stage. “It is a case where I am not arrested during investigation; amount is already in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate.” 

The Court granted liberty to the petitioner to serve advanced notice to the central agency. The matter would now be heard on April 20. 

The Patna High Court had refused to grant relief and observed,

“An economic offence is committed with cool calculation and deliberate design with an eye on personal profit regardless of the consequence to the community.”

The petitioner, Pankaj Goyal, approached the Supreme Court by way of an SLP against the order of the Patna High Court which rejected his request for grant of anticipatory bail.  

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He had approached the High Court of Patna apprehending his arrest in a money laundering case registered in which an ECIR was registered in 2016. Thereafter, the first complaint was filed in 2018 and supplementary complaint was filed in December 2018. Second supplementary complaint against the petitioner was filed on 29.04.2020.

Two people, Shashi Kumar and Rajesh Kumar, lodged two cases against the Chief Manager and other officials of Bank of India, G.B. Road Branch, Gaya as the bank accounts in their name/ their family members/ firm Shiva Agro Enterprises held with the bank were misutilized in connivance with bank officials. A huge amount of cash was deposited and transferred to other bank accounts without their knowledge and consent, they complained.

The petitioner is the managing director of M/s. Sanjog Steels Pvt Ltd and the allegation against him is that he accepted payment from a fake and non-existent firm, M/s Radha Trading Company, situated in Delhi. The investigation revealed that on 21.10.2016, Rs 50 lakh cash was deposited in the account of Shiva Agro Enterprises, which was transferred on the same day to the account of Radha Trading Company, Delhi. This money was circulated through the bank accounts of fake and non-existent firms and finally the proceeds of crime amounting to Rs 20 lakh were merged in the bank account of the petitioner’s company. It is the case of the petitioner that his company deals through a broker who got orders from M/s Radha Trading Company for supply of MS TMT BAR which was supplied to them in 2016.

Also Read: Delhi High Court says impractical to ask banks to insure deposits beyond statutory RBI norms

The petitioner had contended before the High Court that he ought to be granted anticipatory bail in this matter as he has got an established industrial unit at Jaipur with huge investment and he stays with his entire family there. Therefore the possibility of him escaping the country to avoid cooperation with the authorities is nil. 

The High Court observed that during investigation it was found that the fake and fictitious firms through which the money was layered do not exist and operate at their given addresses. Moreover,  the petitioner could not produce reliable documents in support of the claim that he received Rs 20 lakh against supply of the goods. Therefore, it was concluded that the transactions, through these firms, were involved in money laundering in terms of Section 23 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

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