Mumbai: ED opposes Chhagan Bhujbal’s bail plea

Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday vehemently opposed the application moved by former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, seeking bail. The central agency claimed that Bhujbal has given an explanation of only Rs 30 crore out of the total Rs 847 crore, the amount which he is accused of siphoning and laundering.

Special counsel for ED, advocate Hiten Venegaonkar said, “In his bail plea, the accused Bhujbal has only given an explanation of Rs. 30 crore, which he claims to have paid towards furniture of Maharashtra Sadan. However, he has not given any explanation for nearly Rs. 817 crore, which we claim, he has laundered.”

“Our argument is only limited to section 24, under which the entire onus to prove himself innocent is only and only on Bhujbal. He has to establish that no amount was siphoned and has to give explanation of the total amount which is allegedly laundered by him through his group of companies,” Venegaonkar argued. The central agency informed the special PMLA court that they have attached Bhujbal’s properties worth Rs. 154 only. The agency told the court that these properties are nothing but the ‘proceeds of crime.’

Citing section 24 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Venegaonkar said it is Bhujbal’s responsibility now to clarify that these properties are not the proceeds of crime and are bought by him ‘legally.’ The ED’s arguments come in response to the bail plea moved by the Bhujbal, who is languishing in the Arthur Road jail since February 2016. He was arrested by the ED for his alleged role in the Rs. 847 crore money laundering case. This is the fourth time that Bhujbal has sought bail from the court since his pleas for bail are rejected thrice by the court.

It may be noted Bhujbal had moved this bail plea in July this year and since then the ED has time and again sought adjournments and the matter is going on since last four months now. The special court has now adjourned the matter for further hearing till Friday. The central agency is likely to continue its arguments on the next hearing.

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