A special court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Enforcement Directorate (ED) saying the agency should not adopt a pick and choose policy and catch only small fishes but also act against the key accused in the Rs 5,000 crore money laundering scam. It was hearing the bail plea of Delhi-based businessman Gagan Dhawan in connection with the laundering case.
“The entire system is corrupt. You (ED) are only catching small fishes while I am surprised why till date no officials of the accused company (Gujarat-based pharma firm Sterling Biotech Ltd), the chartered accountants and others are arrested? Don’t do pick and choose,” Additional Sessions Judge Sidharth Sharma said while reserving his order on bail plea for tomorrow.
The court was critical of the fact that except Dhawan, other accused were still at large in the “huge scam”. Special Public Prosecutor Nitesh Rana, representing the ED, opposed Dhawan’s plea saying he was damaging country’s financial health by helping others in committing offences of such a vast magnitude and enlarging him on bail will have serious consequences.
He told the court that investigation was at a very crucial stage and Dhawan may flee from justice and divert the proceeds of crime if granted bail. “The ED has to recover entire proceeds of crime worth Rs 5,000 crore. Attachment of properties are taking place and the bail plea must be dismissed,” Rana said.
In the bail plea, Dhawan, arrested on November 1, has sought the relief saying he was not required for further investigation since the charge sheet has already been filed and no purpose would be served by keeping him in custody. The charge sheet was filed against Dhawan on December 23,
last year. Dhawan was sent to judicial custody on November 15 by the court after the probe agency said he was not required for further custodial interrogation.
The ED had alleged that Dhawan had facilitated the directors of SBL in the purchase of several properties and helped in misuse and diversion of the credit facilities of several bank totalling Rs 5,000 crore. “Rs 1.5 crore was received by the accused from the SBL group. Prior to that, the amount of bank loans was rotated in various group companies of SBL group,” the ED had claimed. The trial court had on November 14 issued non-bailable
warrants against two other persons– SBL directors Nitin and Chetan Sandesara. The agency had told the court that Sandesara might have left the country.
Dhawan was arrested in an alleged bank fraud case involving the SBL under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The firm and Dhawan were also being probed by the ED for allegedly bribing senior Income Tax department officials in an earlier criminal complaint. The CBI had booked Sterling Biotech, its directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former director Andhra Bank Anup Garg and some unidentified persons in connection with the alleged bank fraud case.
It had alleged that the company had taken loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank which had turned into non-performing assets. The FIR had also alleged that the total pending dues of the group companies were Rs 5,383 crore as on December 31, 2016. The ED had taken a cognisance of this FIR to file a money laundering case against them.