A SPECIAL court on Tuesday granted bail to meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on charges of money-laundering in August, stating that he cannot be punished by keeping him“incarcerated before his conviction”.
The court noted that the allegation against the accused was that he was taking money from public persons for helping them in CBI prosecution through CBI officers, and where his offer was not accepted they were threatened with further “screwing” of their cases.
The accused was directed to deposit his passport, not leave the country without the court’s prior permission and not influence witnesses in the case.
It said the ED availed of the full opportunity to unearth the offence of money-laundering allegedly committed by Qureshi, and had custody of him to the maximum extent permissible. “Now the complaint has been filed. Statements of the prosecution witnesses have been recorded… Even before the applicant was taken into custody by the ED he has not tried to influence, intimidate or persuade these witnesses not to depose against him. Moreover there are no allegations that the applicant (accused) tried to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence,” the court said.
The court relied on a recent Supreme Court judgment which made changes in bail conditions under the money-laundering Act. “The court said now the situation has gone a ‘sea change’ as earlier two conditions were required to be fulfilled before releasing ED accused on bail: namely giving an opportunity to the public prosecutor to oppose the bail application and that the court had to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused is not guilty of such offence and he is likely not to commit any offence while on bail,” it said.
“(These conditions) have been declared unconstitutional violating article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India… So without the application of twin conditions the allegation is that he (Qureshi) had taken money from two persons in 2012, 13 with the assurance that his contacts with CBI officers and he will help them in their CBI prosecutions… the applicant had gone abroad and there is no allegation that he tried to temper with the evidence or influence the witness. Rather, the applicant has shown that he had participated in the investigation earlier.”
The case dates back to 2014, when the Income Tax Department conducted searches against Qureshi. Later, the ED conducted searches under FEMA. In 2016, the I-T booked him under Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, as its probe led the to foreign assets owned or held by the meat exporter and his family and allegedly not reported to Indian tax authorities.