Bombay HC grands bail NCP leader Sameer Bhujbal in money laundering case

The High Court today granted bail to NCP leader Sameer Bhujbal, the nephew of former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, in a 2016 money laundering case.

Justice AS Gadkari granted bail to Sameer on the primary grounds that the main accused, Chhagan Bhujbal, had already been extended a similar relief by another bench of the HC, and that Sameer had already been in custody for over two years for an offence that entails a maximum punishment of seven years.

Justice Gadkari also took into account the primary argument of Sameer’s lawyer Vikram Chaudhary that in November 2017, the Supreme Court had struck down section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act which imposed stringent conditions on granting of bail to persons charged under this law.

The HC directed Sameer, a former MP of NCP, to deposit his passport at the special PMLA court and to make him available for questioning whenever required. The HC also asked him not to leave the city without its permission.

Sameer has also been directed to furnish a surety of Rs 5 lakh to secure the bail.

Sameer, Chhagan Bhujbal, and 51 others were charged by the Enforcement Directorate in 2016 for various offences, including the alleged Maharashtra Sadan scam.

While Chhagan Bhujbal was granted bail on May 4 this year by another bench of the HC, a vacation bench of Justice Bharati Dangre had last week refused to grant any interim relief to Sameer.

Court refuses bail to Chhagan Bhujbal, nephew Sameer Bhujbal

Court refuses bail to Chhagan Bhujbal, nephew Sameer Bhujbal
Court refuses bail to Chhagan Bhujbal, nephew Sameer Bhujbal

In a major setback to former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal, a local court today rejected his bail application in connection with cases filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The court also rejected the bail application of his nephew and former Lok Sabha member Sameer Bhujbal.

“Both the bail applications are rejected,” said special PMLA judge M S Azmi.

The order copy will be available later, he said.

The court had rejected the former public works minister’s bail plea, filed on medical grounds, earlier too.

Last month, the Supreme Court struck down a stringent condition for securing bail for a person accused of money laundering, saying it was “manifestly arbitrary”.

Section 45(1) of the PMLA which imposes conditions such as hearing the prosecutor before the bail is granted, was “unreasonable”, the top court had said.

Bail applications of Bhujbals were pending at that time.

After the SC ruling, the court here heard the arguments afresh.

Special public prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar argued that the onus of proving that the alleged proceeds of crime were untainted was on the accused.

He added that the Bhujbals’ bail applications mentioned Rs 30 crore, but during interrogation, they admitted to laundering money to the tune of Rs 800 crore.

Chhagan Bhujbal is an influential person and may tamper with evidence. Investigation as to his foreign investments is yet to be over, the prosecutor said.

In 2015, the Enforcement Directorate had registered two ‘Enforcement Case Information Reports’ (ECIRs) under the PMLA against the NCP leader, suspecting illegal transactions to the tune of Rs 900 crore in all.

The first case was about the Maharashtra Sadan and Kalina land allotment scams, while the second was related to a housing project at Navi Mumbai by a construction firm promoted by the Bhujbal family. The firm owners were accused of duping flat buyers after collecting advance.

( Source – PTI )