CBI Court denies bail to Chennai port trust scam mastermind despite prolonged detention

Sudalaimuthu had moved the petition stating that his health had deteriorated due to long-term imprisonment.
Representative image
Representative image

CHENNAI: A special CBI court in Chennai has dismissed the bail petition of the alleged mastermind behind the Rs 100 crore Chennai Port Trust scam being probed by the Enforcement Directorate, stating that bail cannot be issued in a money laundering case simply due to prolonged incarceration as an under-trial prisoner or chronic illness.

The court passed the order on June 15, on a bail petition moved by V Sudalaimuthu, identified by the ED as ‘the mastermind and architect’ of a 2020 scam where private persons had impersonated government officials to fraudulently move term deposits of the Chennai Port Trust (CPT) to private accounts.

Around Rs 100 crore of such deposits were illegally moved and a loss of Rs 45.4 crore was alleged. After an initial FIR filed by CBI, ED had initiated a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in March 2022 and arrested 11, including the petitioner.

Sudalaimuthu had moved the petition stating that his health had deteriorated due to long-term imprisonment and that ED had not substantiated the allegations mentioned in their plaint, framed charges or proceeded with the trial. Invoking the Constitution, the petitioner alleged a denial of justice and blamed ED’s ‘lethargic attitude.’

ED objected to his petition stating that the twin conditions for bail, as laid out in Section 45 (1) of PMLA, has not been satisfied. There should be prima facie satisfaction that the accused had not committed the offence and that he should not commit any offence on bail, it said to the court.

The central agency’s contention was that although it has not yet unearthed the exact amount of the proceeds of the crime, Sudalaimuthu had retained the majority of it and pegged the amount to be Rs 35 crore. The agency told the court that he had purchased properties amounting to more than 230 acres for which he could not account through any known legal sources of income. They had attached properties worth Rs 7 crore in the case.

ED also stated that they had analysed the flight risk of the accused and that he had the wherewithal and resources to flee the country if given bail. It also contended that if released on bail, the accused might layer the proceeds of crime into several accounts and conceal its origin, defeating the investigation’s objective.

Furthermore, stating that the accused has been receiving proper medical treatment, the agency termed the multiple bail pleas filed by Sudalaimuthu on grounds of poor health, as baseless.

In view of the arguments, the special court dismissed the bail petition and stated that it is not inclined to take a lenient view on the matter.

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The New Indian Express