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PMLA Case Against Virbhadra: Court Denies Bail To LIC Agent[/caption]
A special court on Saturday dismissed the bail plea of an LIC agent, arrested in a money laundering case involving Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and others, saying there were "more than sufficient" material to show his involvement in the offence.
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"The material collected during investigation till date is more than sufficient to reach the conclusion of active involvement of applicant (Anand Chauhan) in the offence of money laundering," Special Judge Vinod Kumar said.
The judge said, "I am of the opinion that it cannot be said that the material against the applicant (Chauhan) is not substantial enough or that he is only at the periphery of the offence. Accordingly, in view of the stringent provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), I am not inclined to grant bail to the applicant."
Chauhan was arrested from Chandigarh on July 9 under the provisions of PMLA as he was allegedly not cooperating with investigating agency Enforcement Directorate (ED).
In its order, the court also asked the probe agency to follow the practices adopted by other probe agencies like CBI like maintaining of case diaries, arrival-departure registers which could be of immence benefit for the agency.
The ED had opposed the bail plea, saying there were ample evidences against Chauhan and there was serious apprehension that he could tamper with evidence if released on bail.
"The persons against whom the case was filed are still holding very high posts. He should not be granted bail as it will hamper the further course of investigation," the agency had told the court.
Chauhan had sought bail on the ground that the case against him was documentary in nature and there was no need to keep him in custody. He had further said that he had joined and cooperated in the probe.
While arguing for bail, his counsel had submitted that he was not the "fountainhead" for generating the money. "Neither the money was his (Chauhan), nor he was the beneficiary. He was arrested on July 9 while no other accused has been arrested in the case yet. Isn't it a dubious way of the probe agency," the counsel had asked.
ED had earlier claimed in the court that during Chauhan's interrogation, it was revealed that as an LIC agent, he had entered into a modus operandi to launder disproportionate assets by investing in LIC policies.
The agency had submitted that Virbhadra Singh, "while serving as a union minister, invested huge amount in purchasing LIC policies in his own name and his family members through Chauhan."
"Further, Virbhadra Singh, while functioning as Union minister during the period from May 28, 2009, to June 26, 2012, acquired assets, disproportionate to his known sources of income to the tune of Rs 6,03,70,782 and further tried to justify the same in the form of agricultural income.
"Pratibha Singh, wife of Virbhadra Singh, Chauhan, with whom Virbhadra Singh has signed the alleged MoU for managing his apple orchard and Chunni Lal Chauhan, proprietor of M/s Universal Apple Associates, who purportedly showed purchase of apple of Shrikhand Orchard, have facilitated in justifying the disproportionate assets of Virbhadra Singh and thereby abetted the offence," the ED had alleged.