Arms dealer plea in money laundering case be tagged with Robert Vadra's matter: ED to HC

PTI
Monday, 8 April 2019

Mehta along with central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan said there is a development in the case and two co-accused involved in the same FIR have filed writ petitions challenging the vires or Constitutionality of the PMLA before a division bench.

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) told the Delhi High Court on Monday that a plea of arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari seeking quashing of a money laundering case be transferred to the bench which is hearing Robert Vadra's petition in the same matter.

Justice Mukta Gupta was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, that the agency is in the process of filing an application seeking to tag Bhandari's plea with the petitions of Vadra and his close aide Manoj Arora.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Vinod Goel is hearing the pleas of Vadra and Arora who have also sought quashing of the money laundering case against them besides challenging the Constitutionality of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Mehta along with central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan said there is a development in the case and two co-accused involved in the same FIR have filed writ petitions challenging the vires or Constitutionality of the PMLA before a division bench.

The counsel said Bhandari's plea be also sent to the division bench to be heard together and added "there is a direct nexus between this petitioner (Bhandari) and the two petitioners before the division bench".

Though Mehta did not name the two co-accused in the court, the ED has lodged the money laundering case against Vadra and Arora.

The single judge listed the matter for further hearing on May 10.

Bhandari and his wife Sonia Bhandari have move separate pleas seeking quashing of the money laundering case lodged against them by ED in February 2017.

Bhandari, who is also an accused in a 2016 case under the Official Secrets Act relating to the recovery of confidential documents of the Ministry of Defence from his residence during an Income Tax raid in 2016, was declared a proclaimed offender by a trial court here in January last year.

He is also facing prosecution under provisions of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.

During the probe, ED had found that he helped Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in purchasing a property in the United Kingdom.

ED has lodged a money laundering case against Vadra and Arora accusing them of acquiring the London property in an illegal manner.

The ED case relates to allegations of money laundering in purchase of a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square, worth 1.9 million pounds. The property is allegedly owned by Vadra.

The case is before a trial court here which has granted anticipatory bail to Vadra. The court had asked him to cooperate in the investigation by the ED where he appeared several times for being quizzed.

In his plea before the division bench, Vadra has sought that various provisions of the PMLA, including its power to arrest and the burden of proof, be declared unconstitutional.

He has said that while it is permissible for the investigating agencies to conduct further probe, the sweeping investigation power does not warrant subjecting a citizen each time to a fresh investigation in respect of the same incident giving rise to one or more cognisable offences.

The plea has said that multiple investigations have been held in "abuse of statutory power of investigation and therefore second or successive FIRs filed in connection with the same or connected cognisable offence alleged to have been committed in the course of the same transaction pursuant to the first FIR is liable to be quashed".

The ED has raised preliminary objection on Vadra's plea saying it was not maintainable as he "wilfully suppressed" material facts from the court and it was an abuse of process of law. 

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