AP High Court Grants Bail to Money Laundering Accused
Fact and Issue of the case
The facts stated in the petition, in brief, are that on 11.05.2017 basing on the report of Income Tax Office, Investigation, Unit-III, Visakhapatnam, the Station House Officer, MVP Police Station, Visakhapatnam registered F.I.R No.181 of 2017 for the offences punishable under Sections 120-B, 420, 465, 468 & 471 r/w 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for short “IPC”) against Vaddi Mahesh and others on the allegation that in pursuance of their conspiracy created false and forged documents for the purpose of cheating and used the said false documents as genuine knowing fully well as false and made transactions in various banks fraudulently and dishonestly and had a wrongful gain to them correspondently loss to the Government of India by way of transferring Rs.569 crores in foreign exchange transferring the amount outside India i.e. Singapore, Hongkong and China on the basis of bogus documents. Thereafter, the Enforcement Directorate registered the case in ECIR/VSKZO/03/2017 under Section 3 r/w 4 of PMLA Act.
Vaddi Mahesh in his statement stated that the funds which were being transferred to abroad belong to the petitioner and the same would be utilized for adjustment of the undervaluation of goods imported by some of the importers in India and that petitioner is wanted by DRI for smuggling activities and evasion of customs duties. Likewise, Thankiesh Aravindan, Director of M/s Eagle Mount Trading Ltd., in his statement stated that in his association with the petitioner, he never observed him doing a genuine business transaction in any imports relating to India. One Chellathurai Maheswaran, Nominee Director of M/s SRV Group International Pte. Ltd., Singapore in his statement stated that the petitioner requested him to act as Nominee Director of the company and he handed over USB Dongle and signed cheques to the petitioner with effect from May, 2016 for operation of bank account No.503-312-977-301-USD & account No.695-354-324-001 of M/s SRV Global with OCBC Bank, Singapore and that the bank accounts were handled by him and the same can be confirmed by IP address in the net banking of the above accounts. Basing on the above confession statements, the petitioner was arrayed as an accused.
It is also stated that the petitioner was in custody for about 60 days in Central Prison, Visakhapatnam, but his statement was not recorded by the Enforcement Directorate and subsequently, on P.T. Warrant, the petitioner was produced before the Court below and remanded to judicial custody on 03.09.2020. Petitioner was granted bail under Section 167 (2) of Cr.P.C on 11.11.2019. Thereafter, again on 04.02.2020 the petitioner was detained in connection with detention order issued by the Joint Director, COFEPOSA and the petitioner is in Central Jail No.7, Tihar, New Delhi as a preventive detention detenue. The Enforcement Directorate officials visited the Central Jail No.7, examined the petitioner from 16.03.2020 to 19.03.2020 and recorded the statement of petitioner in terms of Section 50 of PMLA Act. P.T. Warrant was issued on 27.04.2020 and the petitioner was produced before the Court below and remanded in this case on 03.09.2020. The petitioner’s custody was given to Enforcement Directorate for 5 days.
It is further stated that the petitioner filed Crl.M.P.No.1301 of 2020 on the file of Metropolitan Sessions Judge-cum-I Additional District & Sessions Judge, Visakhapatnam, seeking regular bail, but the same was dismissed on 11.11.2020. Again the petitioner filed Crl.M.P.No.1673 of 2020 before the Metropolitan Sessions Judge-cum-I Additional District & Sessions Judge-cum- Special Judge for Trial of PMLA, Visakhapatnam, but the same was also dismissed on 28.12.2020.
It is further stated that petitioner also approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court by filing W.P. (Crl.) No.18 of 2021 seeking declaration that reading of twin limitation for grant of bail into Section 45 (1) of PMLA Act without any specific reincorporation or resurrection thereof by any legislative amendment in Section 45 (1) of PMLA Act, despite the clause (ii) of Section 45 (1) having already been wiped out from the Statute since inception by holding the same as ultra vires and also sought for quashing of investigation under PMLA conducted by the Enforcement Directorate, Visakhapatnam. The petitioner also filed SLP (Crl.) 327 of 2021 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court challenging the order dated 28.12.2020 in Crl.M.P.No.1673 of 2020 passed by the learned Special Judge.
It is also stated that in pursuance of the resolution dated 12.05.2021 passed by the High Powered Committee of High Court of Andhra Pradesh, the petitioner approached the Special Judge, PMLA, Visakhapatnam for grant of interim bail for 90 days. But on 05.07.2021 the learned Special Judge dismissed the said application by observing that the petitioner already filed writ petition before the Hon’ble Apex Court in I.A.No.33033 of 2021 seeking interim bail in W.P. (Crl.) No.18 of 2021 and SLP (Crl.) No.327 of 2021, which are pending adjudication and petitioner is not supposed to approach two forums for same relief for interim bail. Thereafter on 19.07.2021, the entire batch matters including SLP (Crl.) No.327 of 2021 was listed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the same were disposed of as withdrawn with liberty to approach the High Court against the impugned order passed by the trial Court. In view of the liberty granted by the Hon’ble Apex Court, the petitioner has approached this Court.
Observation of the court
This Court without going into merits of the case, taking into consideration the factors that the petitioner has been languishing in jail from the last 360 days, petitioner himself voluntarily surrendered before the Court below in the year 2019, other accused were already enlarged on bail and the health condition of petitioner, this Court deems it appropriate to grant interim bail to the petitioner for a period one month on certain conditions.
The petitioner shall be enlarged on interim bail for a period of one month i.e. from 08.09.2021 to 07.10.2021 (both days inclusive) in connection with ECIR/VSKZO/03/2017 registered by Enforcement Directorate, Visakhapatnam on his executing a bond for a sum of Rs.10,00,000/- (Rupees ten lakhs only) with two sureties each for a like sum to the satisfaction of learned Metropolitan Sessions Judge-cum-Additional District and Sessions Judge-cum-Special Judge for Trial of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Visakhapatnam. On such release, the petitioner shall not leave the country and shall not tamper with evidence and influence the witnesses. The petitioner shall appear before the Assistant Director, Directorate of Enforcement, Visakhapatnam on every day during the interim bail period between 10.00 a.m. and 12.00 p.m
The Court has ruled in favour of the petitioner and granted bail to the petitioner.
Read the full order from belowAP-High-Court-Grants-Bail-to-Money-Laundering-Accused