ED Opposes HC Order Granting Bail to Preeti Chandra in SC, Says Rs 7,000 Crore Siphoned Off

The ED on Tuesday opposed the Delhi High Court’s order granting bail to Preeti Chandra, the wife of Unitech promoter Sanjay Chandra, in a money laundering case and told the apex court that Rs 7,000 crore of home buyers money was siphoned off in the alleged scam.

The Supreme Court had on June 16 stayed the high court’s June 14 order and issued a notice to Preeti Chandra on the ED’s plea challenging the bail.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S V Raju, representing the ED, claimed in the top court that the case pertained to a scam of “huge magnitude” and Preeti Chandra had a “substantial role” in it.

“This is a case of siphoning off Rs 7,000 crore of home buyers’ money by Unitech,” Raju told the bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud.

The bench also comprised Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra.

He argued that the high court had said she was only a director in the company and there was no evidence of her controlling its day-to-day affairs.

“We are not pitching our case on vicarious liability. Our case is of her active involvement. She was not a mere director. It is not a simple case as tried to be made out by them,” the ASG said.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Preeti Chandra, said the high court had decided the matter in their favour prima facie on all counts.

The arguments on the plea would continue on Wednesday.

“Till further orders, operation of the impugned order dated June 14, 2023, shall remain stayed,” the apex court had said in its June 16 order passed in the matter.

The high court had on June 14 granted bail to Preeti Chandra and said the order will not take effect till June 16, after the ED sought time to challenge it.

The ED had registered the case under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against the Unitech Group and its promoters over allegations that the owners Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra illegally diverted over Rs 2,000 crore to Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.

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Preeti Chandra had earlier sought bail saying she was a fashion designer and philanthropist, who has been in custody since October 4, 2021, and there were no proceeds of crime relatable to her.

The money laundering case arose from a number of Delhi Police and CBI FIRs filed by the home buyers against the Unitech Group and its promoters. A charge sheet has already been filed before the trial court.

It has been alleged that funds collected from home buyers for housing projects were not utilised for their intended purpose and that the buyers were cheated and the accused committed the offence of money laundering.

The allegation against Preeti Chandra, as per the prosecution, is that she received the proceeds of crime totalling Rs 107 crore in her company Prakausli Investments Pvt Ltd but did not disclose how the money was used.

On November 7, 2022, the trial court refused to grant her bail citing the “enormity of the transactions and seriousness of the allegations”.

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