Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday granted interim bail to former Managing Director of Topsgrup M Sashidharan and its promoter Amit Chandole, close aide of MLA Pratap Sarnaik (Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena), in an alleged money laundering case registered by Enforcement Directorate (ED). The case relates to alleged financial irregularities in providing security guards for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) projects by the Topsgrup.
Justice MS Karnik granted them bail on the grounds of “liberty” of the accused and on “parity” as other accused were granted relief by courts. The HC has directed their release on furnishing cash surety of Rs 1 lakh each and asked them not to leave the Greater Mumbai area till further orders.
The court has said in its order that its observations are prima facie in nature and said whether the bail will be continued or cancelled would depend on grant of C-summary (closure report stating that the case is neither true nor false) by the concerned court.
The HC was hearing an appeal filed by Sashidharan and Chandole challenging the order of the special court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in September rejecting their bail pleas.
Sasidharan and Chandole had sought release from prison in the light of the Supreme Court ruling that a case under the PMLA cannot continue if there is no prior First Information Report registered by another agency. As per the PMLA provisions, a prior 'scheduled offence' is a requisite for the ED to initiate action against a person, argued their counsels Amit Desai and Rajiv Chavan respectively.
Chandole was arrested in November 2020, while Sasidharan had been arrested a few months earlier.
In 2020, the ED had registered its complaint on the basis of a case registered by the Mumbai police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW). A former employee of Topsgrup Ramesh Iyer, who had alleged that the company cheated the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) of Rs 175 crore. According to the ED, the MMRDA contract to Topsgrup was facilitated by Sarnaik, who got kickbacks of at least Rs 7 crore from Topsgrup.
However, in January this year, the EOW filed a “C Summary” report before a magistrate's court citing that there was no evidence of crime, which the court had accepted in September.
The special court, however, rejected their bail pleas on the ground that the 90-day period for the Mumbai police to file an appeal against the closure of the case was not yet over.
The agency was earlier investigating Topsgrup, its promoter Rahul Nanda and Sarnaik under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.
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