The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought the Enforcement Directorate’s stand on Avantha Group promoter Gautam Thapar’s bail plea in a Rs 500-crore money laundering case. Issue notice. Reply, if any, be filed before the next date of hearing, said Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri who listed the case for further hearing on December 20.
Thapar, 60, was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on August 3, after the agency carried out raids against him and his linked businesses in Delhi and Mumbai. The ED is probing an alleged transaction between Thapar’s company Avantha Realty and YES Bank co-founder Rana Kapoor and his wife, who is already being investigated under PMLA by the agency.
The money laundering case was filed by the ED after taking cognisance of an FIR lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Last month, a trial court here had dismissed Thapar’s bail application, saying that since the huge loss of public money was involved in the case, it needed to be viewed seriously. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the businessman, argued that bail was wrongly rejected by the trial court only on the ground that he could be a flight risk.
The trial court applied the triple test Two tests (of the possibility of evidence tampering and influencing witnesses) were held in my favour. But the third test of flight risk is against me. This cannot be ground (as) my passport could have been deposited, he said. Large number of Thapar group businesses are going unattended, the senior lawyer told the court.
While dismissing the bail application, Special judge Sanjeev Aggarwal had observed that there were allegations that proceeds of crime to the tune of Rs 500 crore were generated in this case and were laundered and utilised in repayment of existing loans and meeting other expenses in conspiracy with the other accused persons arraigned in the complaint.
“Considering the overall facts and circumstances, since the allegations against the accused are grave and serious in nature, no ground for bail is made out at this stage. Consequently, the bail application of accused Gautam Thapar is dismissed," the trial court had said.
The trial court had accepted the arguments made by special public prosecutors that the chances of the accused fleeing the country could not be ruled out. Thapar’s bail application had claimed that he was not required for the investigation and that no purpose would be served by keeping him in further custody.
On October 1, the trial court also took cognisance of a charge sheet filed in the case against Thapar and 20 others. The final report had alleged that the accused committed criminal breach of trust, cheating, criminal conspiracy, and forgery for diversion and misappropriation of public money from 2017 to 2019 and caused a loss to the tune of Rs 466.51 crore to YES Bank.
On September 30, the high court had dismissed Thapar’s plea challenging his arrest on the ground that he was produced before the trial court after the expiry of statutorily mandated 24 hours.