Kochi (Kerala) [India], December 8 (ANI): The High Court here on Tuesday adjourned the bail petition of M Sivasankar, former principal secretary of the Kerala Chief Minister's Office, in a money laundering case related to the gold smuggling case to December 18.
During the hearing today, Sivasankar's counsel completed his arguments. Now, the Enforcement Directorate will submit its arguments through additional solicitor general Raju on December 18.
Denying ED's allegations that Sivasankar contacted customs officials to clear the baggage suspected of containing smuggled gold, Sivasankar's counsel Jaideep Gupta claimed the statements made by co-accused Swapna Suresh about Sivasankar's involvement are not credible as they were made after her arrest.
"The correspondence between Sivasankar and Swapna does not disclose any knowledge on the latter's part. All of Swapna's statements categorically denied his client's involvement in gold smuggling, until before her arrest. The authority has submitted before Special Court that the crime need not be identified to proceed under Prevention of Money Launder Act," Gupta said.
He asked if the crime is not identified, how can one find out if it is a 'Scheduled Offence' under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
"You cannot proceed against a person on the basis of an underlying offence. What is the predicate offence? In this case, the predicate offence is not defined. The allegations have been changed from gold smuggling to involvement in the LIFE Mission case," Gupta said.
"First they said proceeds of crime are from gold smuggling. Now they say these are kickbacks from the LIFE Mission contract. Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) is not applicable here. Where are the proceeds of crime? My client has not received any money, the offence under PMLA is not complete. The project was a private contract, how are they saying that a government servant received kickbacks from it?" he added.
He said the LIFE Mission project had its own CEO and added that Shivasankar could not have been involved. "The contract was awarded after a public tender; everything is in the public domain; no one can tamper with this information; there are no reasonable grounds to hold my client responsible for anything," Gupta said.
The lawyer further said that the correspondence between Swapna and Sivasankar does not disclose anything suspicious and added that they are social acquaintances and merely because Sivasankar sought accommodation for Swapna, the ED is making an impression that it was to keep the proceeds of crime.
Notably, a Principal Sessions Court in Kochi had on November 17 dismissed Sivasankar's bail petition in the money laundering case.
The case, which is currently being probed by the Enforcement Directorate, National Investigation Agency and the Customs Department, pertains to the smuggling of gold in the state through diplomatic channels. (ANI)