The Bombay High Court bench of Justice SK Shinde, on Wednesday, refused to cancel the bail of Yogesh Deshmukh, a close associate of Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik and an accused in the money laundering case, connected to the National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) scam observing that the investigating agency does not seem intent to proceed with the probe and yet wants to oppose the bail.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had sought the cancellation of the builder’s bail.
Arrested on April 6 for his alleged role in the NSEL scam, Deshmukh was granted bail by a special court last month. His lawyers, senior advocate Rajiv Chavan and advocate Aniket Nikam, argued that no progress has been made in the investigation since his arrest.
The special court had rejected Deshmukh’s first bail application, stating that the investigation was on and releasing him on bail would hinder it.
While upholding Deshmukh’s bail, justice Shinde observed, “Even before me, applicants (ED) have not placed any material to suggest progress in the investigation as against the respondent -accused (Deshmukh). This being the position, it may be stated that prosecution does not intend to proceed with the investigation against the accused; yet at the same time, would oppose bail plea of the accused on the ground that the accused's release may adversely affect “meaningful” investigation.”
The HC also noted that the prosecution’s case was based on documentary evidence. Hence, even if Deshmukh was released on bail, “chances of tampering the prosecution evidence are weak and faint”, added the HC.
The judge also took note of the fact that 20 other accused, who had either similar or greater role in the alleged scam, were already out on bail. “Apart from that, it is worthwhile recording here that NSEL management, persons and defaulters and persons associated with Aastha Group (Mohit Aggarwal and Sham Kejriwal) have been granted bail either by the special court or by the HC, having a greater role than the present applicant,” observed the HC in its 41-page judgment.
Deshmukh said that he would withdraw his objections to the attached properties, thereby making it absolute. The HC also rejected a request from Additional Solicitor General Anil Deshmukh, appearing for the ED, seeking stay on its order for four weeks so that it could approach the Supreme Court.
Sarnaik’s company, Vihang Group, is being investigated, as it allegedly received ₹11 crore from the NSEL scam. It is alleged that Aastha Group defrauded NSEL of ₹250 crore and Vihang Group helped launder the money. Aastha Group and Vihang Group had formed a joint venture – Vihang Housing Project – and had purchased several plots at Titwala with Deshmukh’s help.
ED has alleged that Deshmukh fraudulently acquired some land from farmers. The agency was told that ₹22 crore was used to purchase the plots. However, it learned that only ₹1 crore had been used to purchase them. ₹11 crore was transferred to Sarnaik’s company and ₹10 crore was transferred to Deshmukh.