Visa scam: ED opposes Karti Chidambaram's anticipatory bail plea in money laundering case
The Enforcement Directorate Wednesday opposed in the Delhi High Court the anticipatory bail plea of Congress MP Karti P Chidambaram in the alleged Chinese Visas scam case, saying there is no genuine apprehension of his arrest.
The ED said the application is premature as the investigation has not yet begun in the matter and even Karti has not been summoned yet.
Justice Poonam A Bamba, who heard the matter for nearly three hours, reserved the order on Karti's plea.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Karti, said there were no proceeds of crime here and he was not a flight risk and was also ready to cooperate in the investigation.
He said the incident relates to 2011 and the CBI and ED registered the FIR and Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) on May 15, 2022, and May 25, 2022, respectively.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the ED, argued that the matter is at a nascent stage and the agency has only registered an ECIR and that there was no apprehension of the arrest.
Karti had moved to the high court after his anticipatory bail plea was dismissed by the trial court on June 3.
The trial court had denied the relief to Karti and two others saying the offence was of a very serious nature.
The trial court had also vacated the interim protection from arrest granted to the accused persons during the pendency of the anticipatory bail application.
It had directed them to join the probe as and when they are called upon by the investigating officer.
The ED registered the money-laundering case against Karti and others in the alleged scam pertaining to the issuance of a visa to 263 Chinese nationals in 2011 when his father P Chidambaram was the home minister.
"The nature and gravity of the alleged offences, the nascent stage of the investigation, and also the previous criminal antecedents of accused Karti P Chidambaram and S Bhaskararaman do not make out a case for grant of anticipatory bail to the applicants or for any further interim protection to them for joining of the investigation of this case as it will seriously hamper the process and progress of the investigation," the trial court had said.
It had also noted that there were four other cases - two by CBI and two by the ED concerning both alleged INX Media and Aircel-Maxis scams - pending before it and both Karti and Bhaskararaman were even arrested in one of such cases and were subsequently granted regular bail, though anticipatory bail was granted to them in the other cases.
ED's counsel had submitted that even in the previous cases, a similar modus-operandi was adopted in granting approvals for some financial transactions against the existing guidelines and policies for illegal considerations or bribes and Bhaskararaman was involved even in transactions of those cases for payment of a bribe to Karti for influencing his father, who was holding another portfolio of union minister at that time, for granting those approvals.
The trial court had said, therefore, the allegations in the CBI case, based upon which the ED lodged its case, cannot be brushed aside or taken lightly.
It had noted that sufficient evidence had already been collected in the CBI case to show the generation of proceeds of crime in the form of bribes amount.
Therefore, it cannot be said that the applicants have been or are being roped in falsely in the above case by the CBI or even in the present case ECIR registered by the ED, the court had said.
ED had said that the actual magnitude or volume of the processed or laundered amount of money in the case was yet to be established during the investigation and the bribe amount of Rs 50 lakh of the CBl case cannot be taken or considered as the basis of the present case.
The agency has registered its case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) taking cognisance of a recent first information report by the CBI in the same case.