delhi high court

Delhi High Court: In an application filed seeking bail in a matter wherein the applicant has been charged u/s 13(2) r/w 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and u/s 120-B r/w 420, 465, 467, 468 and 471 of Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and is in custody since 22-06-2022. Jasmeet Singh, J., refuses bail and held that the applicant’s role is clearly made out from the financials, where direct loan funds have been siphoned off to sister concerns of SBFL where the applicant is either a shareholder or director.

The SBFL was engaged in manufacturing and selling food items like wheat flour, rice, biscuits, cookies, dalia, gram flour, maida etc. under the established and well-known brand name of ‘Shakti Bhog’. The company was managed through its Directors / Guarantors – Sh. Kewal Krishan Kumar, Sh. Siddharth Kumar and Smt. Sunanda Kumar. SBFL had around 250 regular employees. It is stated that the applicant was one such employee and was drawing renumeration as an employee. The applicant is alleged to have been involved in the offence of money laundering. The allegations against the applicant are that the applicant aided in a fraudulent increase of inventory/stock in the account books of Shakti Bhog Foods Limited ‘SBFL’ which helped in increasing the borrowings.

An Investigation revealed that bank fraud was committed by the active involvement of the Managing Directors, Directors and Guarantors of SBFL. It was alleged that due to the fraudulent activities, SBFL failed to discharge its loan liability and caused loss to the consortium member banks to the tune of INR 3269.42 Crore. As per the Arrest Memo dated 22-06-2022, it is alleged that the Applicant was beneficiary of the proceeds of crime, from SBFL, which amounted to INR 1,00,00,000 over a period of 9 years from 2008 to 2017. It was further alleged that the Applicant was a shareholder/director of various group entities of SBFL and that such entities provided a platform to SBFL to divert and rotate its loan funds changing its nature from liability to assets, thus, leading to the commission of offense of money-laundering as defined under Section 3 of the PMLA 2002.

The Court noted that the role of the applicant can be ascertained from the various statements, emails, and invoices. Investigations revealed that emails were from and related to the shell entities such as Lachhu Ram Aggarwal & Co. Annapurna Trading Company. Ganesha Overseas. Sarthak Trading Company and Mayank Enterprises supplying fake invoices to SBFL were also marked to Applicant. The Email shows that RTGS of Rs. 1,94,38,200 was sent against such fake invoices. The attached fake invoices were verified by Vijay Malhotra on the instructions of the applicant. Thus, the Applicant cannot feign ignorance to these transactions as these transactions relate to the purchase of material for SBFL and the Applicant admittedly was VP (Purchases).

The Court further noted that various emails show the involvement of the applicant in the running of the affairs and business dealings of SBFL as he was either the originator or primary recipient. In view of such clear emails, it’s not appropriate to give a finding that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused/applicant is not guilty of offence of money laundering. The emails categorially lead one to infer that the applicant was directly involved in process/activity connected to the proceeds of crime. Moreover, the applicant has also not been able to bring home the point that he was the only director for the namesake. The statements of various employees of SBFL would also lead to reasonable inference that he is actively connected with the process or activity relating to the proceeds of crime.

The Court dismissed the bail application and held that there is sufficient incriminating evidence about the involvement of the accused/applicant in the offence of money laundering. It is not only the statements u/s 50 PMLA which show the involvement of the applicant but other material such as emails as well as documents containing the signatures of the applicant which are also indicative of involvement of the applicant in the offence of money laundering.

[Tarun Kumar v. Enforcement Directorate, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 4173, decided on 18-07-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Siddharth Aggarwal, Sr. Adv. with Mr. Malak Bhatt, Ms. Neeha Nagpal, Ms. Samridhi, Ms. Arshia Ghose, Advocates for the Applicant;

Mr. Zoheb Hossain, Spl. Counsel with Mr. Vivek Gurnani, Mr. Kartik Sabharwal, Advocates for the Respondent.

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