Former finance minister P Chidambaram is "playing the victim card" to prevent the ED from arresting him in the money laundering case related to INX Media and there is no witch-hunt, the probe agency said on Wednesday, alleging money laundering in this matter is going on even now.
In its submissions before the apex court, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also said it has received "specific inputs and specific details" from foreign countries and banks about properties abroad, house number, companies and persons who own them, a day after Chidambaram dared the ED to prove he had bank accounts and assets abroad as claimed by the agency. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, said they cannot share "sensitive material" collected during the probe with Chidambaram at this stage.
What the paper trails show:
The former finance minister had on August 27 filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, denying ED allegations that he had bank accounts or properties abroad, purchased with allegedly laundered money.
The rejoinder was filed in response to the ED affidavit placed on record on August 26. ED stated it had found “17 benami foreign bank accounts” used for laundering money and 10 properties purchased with the money. Chidambaram and his co-conspirators “had accounts/valuable properties in Argentina, Austria, British Virgin Islands, France, Greece, Malaysia, Monaco, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and Sri Lanka,” the affidavit said.
Erosion of money trails:
Mehta says, “The petitioner is suggesting conducting a mini trial in the case. It’s upto the satisfaction of the investigation agency whether the statement is evasive or not. The moment accused is confronted with the evidence; the accused can easily erase the money trails. All are shell companies; money is parked in the name of individuals and benami properties.” Confrontation would mean exposing agency’s investigation and also to expose the source. Investigation is a science, not a question-answer session.
Accused cannot dictate:
My descretion is absolute but not unguided and arbitrary. The accused can’t say that agency should be asked to do this first and then arrest me, Mehta says. Custodial interrogation is a recognizable right under investigation.
Why urgent hearing was refused:
Tushar Mehta quotes a privy council judgement to say that except for cases of demolition and death sentence, other cases are refused urgent hearing. The verdict says SC should ordinarily not interfere with bail or anticipatory bail, exception in exceptional cases.
Concealment is a crime
Mehta says if bribe is taken in 2097-08 and the offence of birbery is added in 2009, the bribe taken continues to be laundered. The bribe giver and taker may not be directly involved. Bribe was given in 2007-08 but laundering continued. Concealment of proceeds of crime is a standalone crime under PMLA.
Referring to the arguments advanced by Chidambaram's counsel on Tuesday that the ED wanted to humiliate him by arresting him, Mehta said, "A victim card is sought to be played. They are saying humiliation. It is not. It is prevention, prevention and prevention with capital P. I am serious about this". He said they are dealing with an "intelligent person" since a "stupid man" cannot commit laundering of layers and layers of money and this offence is not committed at the heat of moment. "It is a well crafted and well thought of offence, meaning thereby it become very difficult to unravel how money is laundered," he said while urging the court to look into the materials collected during the probe.