A special PMLA court here on Friday granted bail to businessman Haroun Yusuf, arrested in 2019 in connection with a money laundering case also involving late gangster and drug smuggler Iqbal Mirchi, holding he had no knowledge regarding the latter's source of money.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), probing the case, has claimed Yusuf had assisted Mirchi in buying properties in India using money earned through illegal activities. However, special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court judge MG Deshpande, while granting the accused bail, held that except bare allegations, there was nothing to show Yusuf had any knowledge regarding Mirchi's source of money.
The judge also pulled up the central agency for delaying trial in the case. Based on multiple FIRs registered under provisions of the IPC and the NDPS Act (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) against Mirchi, the ED had registered its case against him, his family members and others. Mirchi died at the age of 63 in London in 2013. There are 21 accused in the case, including the wife and son of Mirchi, realtors Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhwans and some firms. Yusuf, arrested in 2019, had sought bail on merits of the case and also under section 436A the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), claiming he has completed 3 years and 6 months in jail under judicial custody.
The relevant section stipulates that if a person has undergone detention for a period extending up to one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence, then he shall be released by the court on personal bond.
The ED had opposed his bail plea, saying the accused was involved in serious offence of money-laundering.
The anti-money laundering agency also objected to the accused citing section 436A of the CrPC, arguing one of the scheduled offences under which he has been booked falls under the NDPS Act and maximum limit of imprisonment provided therein was up to 10 years. The applicant has undergone only three years and six months of imprisonment, which by no stretch of imagination calls for application of the section 436A of the CrPC, the ED added. The court, after hearing both sides, held the applicant had absolutely no role in any of the alleged criminal activities relating to the scheduled offence for alleged generation of proceeds of crime.
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Also, except bare allegations, there is nothing to show he had any knowledge regarding Iqbali Mirchi's source of money. Therefore, contention of the ED that Yusuf had knowledge of such criminal activities relating to the scheduled offence has absolutely no substance, the judge noted. The court pulled up the central probe agency for delaying the trial and not following provisions mandated under the PMLA. It has to be noted that undue incarceration of Yusuf is more than half of the maximum punishment provided under the PML Act. He has been without trial for more than 3 years and 7 months, the court observed. The judge further observed that the ED is purposely keeping the court in dark and deliberately avoiding to scrupulously follow the mandate under Section 44(1)(c) of the PML Act". There is absolutely no possibility of beginning and conclusion of the trial in near future, he said. As per section 44(1)(c) of the PMLA, the case relating to the scheduled offence has to be committed to the court which has taken cognizance of the matter. The ED, in its chargesheet, has claimed Mirchi bought properties in India using money earned through illegal activities and later sold them for redevelopment. The agency's complaint mentioned that three family members of the gangster were the beneficiaries of the assets earned by Mirchi through proceeds of crime.
The central agency has alleged Mirchi had purchased three real estate assets -- Sea View, Marium Lodge and Rabia Mansion -- in 1986. ED officers claimed the gangster was involved in narcotics smuggling and operated an extortion racket for several years, and listed eight cases to prove his involvement in criminal activities since 1984.
A case filed in 1994 at the MRA Marg police station in Mumbai was taken as the base case to initiate a money laundering inquiry against him. The ED claimed Mirchi used a trust as a front and negotiated with several realtors to redevelop properties purchased by him. Between 1981 and 2010, the original tenants in these properties were replaced with Mirchi's relatives, it said.
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