The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted bail to an auditor in connection with a money laundering probe arising from a case of alleged Rs 3,269 crore financial irregularity against Shakti Bhog Foods Ltd.
Justice Jasmeet Singh granted bail to Raman Bhuraria, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in August 2021, and observed that a prima facie case for his release was made out and any further pre-trial incarceration would be a deprivation of his personal liberty and a travesty of justice.
The judge stated that the trial cannot proceed or charges cannot be framed till the investigation comes to an end and the applicant cannot be made to undergo a long period of detention.
“The ED has listed 109 witnesses till date and the prosecution complaints run into lakhs of pages in multiple trunks. Without a completion of investigation, no charges can be framed nor can trial begin… If this court allows the continuing pre-trial incarceration, the same will amount to deprivation of personal liberty as well as travesty of justice as the same is equivalent to punishment without trial,” said the court.
“The period of incarceration as well as the delay in investigation along with any reliable material which directly involved the applicant justifies a prima facie release on bail. The only substantial evidence which is produced are the statements u/s 50 PMLA which too have been retracted. These statements u/s 50 PMLA do not, in my opinion, prima facie establish that the applicant was the mastermind of the whole operation,” it added.
The court granted bail to the accused on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety of the like amount subject to certain conditions like not leaving the country and joining the investigation.
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The ED had opposed the bail plea on the ground that the accused was the “mastermind” in the case.
The money laundering case against Shakti Bhog Foods Limited by the Enforcement Directorate was based on a CBI FIR that charged it and others with criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal misconduct.
The CBI FIR against the company and its promoters came about after State Bank of India (SBI) registered a complaint against the company.
According to the SBI, the directors allegedly falsified accounts and forged documents to siphon off public funds.
The 24-year-old company, which is into manufacturing and selling wheat, flour, rice, biscuits, cookies, etc., had grown organically as it ventured into food-related diversification over a decade with a turnover growth of Rs 1,411 crore in 2008 to Rs 6,000 crore in 2014, the bank complaint had said.