HC grants time to Vivo officials to respond to ED plea against release in money laundering case

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted three vivo-India executives one week to file their reply to a plea by the Enforcement Directorate challenging an order for their release in a money laundering case.

While Additional Solicitor General S V Raju argued that the trial court order was “totally perverse” and the matter required urgent adjudication, the counsel for the accused sought time to file their response.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma listed the matter for further hearing on January 11 and said, “They will need to file a reply. I can’t deny them”.

“The court grants time of one week to respondents to file a reply,” the court ordered.

ASG Raju argued one of the respondents, a Chinese natonal, was a flight risk.

The counsel for the accused said they have already surrendered their passports.

Justice Sharma also indicated she would, when she passes a written order, direct the accused to appear before the ED on Fridays and Mondays.

On Tuesday, a vacation bench of Justice Tushar Rao Gedela had issued notice on the anti-money laundering agency’s plea challenging the trial court order of December 30 while noting that since the executives have already been released, no ex parte interim order could be passed at this stage.

On December 30, the trial court had directed the release of three vivo-India executives– Chinese national and interim CEO of vivo-India Hong Xuquan alias Terry, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Harinder Dahiya and consultant Hemant Munjal, observing that the accused were not produced before the court within 24 hours of the arrest and so their “custody was illegal”.

The three accused had moved the local court seeking bail and claimed they were arrested on December 21 and not December 22, as recorded by the ED, and since they were not produced before a court within 24 hours of their arrest, their arrest was “illegal and not sustainable in law”.

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The ED counsel had, however, contested the claim, saying after the three were “formally arrested, they were supplied with grounds of arrest and produced before the concerned court within 24 hours from arrest.”

The agency has said the premises of the three accused were searched on December 21 and they were subsequently taken to the ED office for questioning and for a forensic analysis of their phones. They were formally arrested the next day on December 22, the ED told the court.

The ED raided vivo-India offices and the premises of those linked to it in July last year and claimed to have busted a major money laundering racket involving Chinese nationals and multiple Indian companies.

It had then alleged that Rs 62,476 crore was “illegally” transferred by vivo-India to China to avoid payment of taxes in India.

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