A Mumbai sessions court Friday granted conditional bail to stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan, accused of stashing nearly $8 billion abroad, saying the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had failed to establish any case against him and criticised the agency for lack of preparedness.
Justice M.L. Tahilyani, rejecting the ED’s plea for Khan’s custodial interrogation, observed that as per the Prevention of Money Laundering Act no charges against Khan has been proved and granted Khan bail on a surety of Rs.75,000.
‘No material evidence has been presented by the ED that shows any scheduled offence has been committed by Khan,’ Principal Sessions judge Tahilyani noted.
The court also observed that ED cannot get custody of Khan due to lack of substantial evidence against him.
The court, however, directed that Khan stay in Mumbai for the next five days and said the ED can question him for the next 48 hours and the businessman will have to appear before the ED officials everyday.
Taking the ED to task for its lack of preparedness in forming a case against Khan, the court observed that it is difficult to say if the documents submitted by ED are genuine.
Special Public Prosecutor Rajiv Awasthi, however, said that ED possesses ‘overwhelming evidences’ against Khan and that the court ‘failed to appreciate the evidence submitted by the ED’.
‘We wanted Khan’s remand as we have vital links on the issue and need to have custodial interrogation of Khan,’ Awasthi said.
Clearly stating that the case will be appealed at a higher court, Awasthi said: ‘We will first secure an order copy of the verdict and then appeal at a higher court as per the laws.’
I.T. Bagaria, Khan’s lawyer, said the ED ‘was given a chance by the court to produce evidence but there is a difference between material and evidence’. ‘What the ED has produced is only material, they have not been able to produce any evidence to prove Khan guilty.’
Khan, who is said to have stashed away $8 billion (Rs.36,000 crore) abroad and is allegedly India’s biggest tax defaulter, was brought to Mumbai from Pune late Monday to be grilled by various ED teams for several hours.
He was presented at a Mumbai sessions court Tuesday where Tahilyani had adjourned the hearing citing jurisdiction issues.
The court had Wednesday reprimanded the ED over its handling of the money laundering case, observing that not a single case has been made out against Khan to seek his custody and asked the agency to do its ‘homework’ properly.
Tahilyani had adjourned the hearing for three consecutive days since then, remanding Khan to ED’s custody before granting him conditional bail Friday.