In dismissing a case against Tamil Nadu's powerful Maran brothers, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in New Delhi had failed to consider allegations of money laundering levelled against them in the Aircel-Maxis case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said in a review petition before the Delhi High Court.
The ED on Tuesday challenged the lower court's order quashing the CBI's case against the Marans, saying that the court had "failed to appreciate" their role in the deal.
The Aircel-Maxis case is related to allegations that Dayanidhi Maran, as telecom minister, had forced Aircel owner, C. Sivasankaran, into parting with his stake in the company to Malaysia's Maxis Communications Bhd.
The CBI had alleged that this was done in lieu of investments by the Malaysian company through Maran's Sun Direct TV (SDTPL), a media group.
The financial probe agency had registered a case based on an FIR by the CBI against the former Union Minister, his brother, media baron Kalanithi, and sister-in-law Kavery. The case was dismissed by the special CBI court on February 2.
In its petition, the ED said the special court had not considered submissions on illegal acts committed by corporate entities involved in the case.
The special court, while discharging the Maran brothers, had said charges could not be framed against any of the accused on the basis of material placed before it.
The petition said the special CBI Judge O P Saini had also "failed to appreciate" that an acquittal in the CBI case on the matter did not imply there could be no proceedings against the accused under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Referring to the money laundering case, the trial court had observed that since the accused had been discharged in the case registered by the CBI, the ED's matter had become "groundless".
The ED held that the special court had "failed to deal" with the statements recorded which constituted "substantive evidence in law and are admissible".
The court "erred" in holding that the commission of the offence was an essential condition for establishing the crime of money laundering, it said.
"It is a settled position of law that prosecution of the offence of money laundering can proceed independently of the prosecution of the scheduled offence," the ED said in its petition, adding that the court had "failed to appreciate" that money laundering was a "stand-alone offence" in law.
It added that the ED's attachments and confiscation of "the proceeds of crime" under the PMLA can "lawfully proceed" and that such restrictions cannot be lifted if the accused are discharged in the scheduled offence.
The ED had earlier filed an appeal against the special court's order at the Supreme Court but the apex court asked it to place the request before the High Court.
The ED has attached Maran's assets worth Rs 748.52 crore in this case under the PMLA.
The review petition of the ED is expected to be listed for hearing in the court next week.
In the money laundering case, the ED had charge sheeted the Maran brothers, Kavery Kalanithi, the managing director of South Asia FM Ltd (SAFL), K Shanmugam, and SAFL and SDTPL under provisions of the PMLA.
The CBI had filed a charge sheet against the Maran brothers, Ralph Marshall, T Ananda Krishnan and four firms — M/s SDTPL, M/s Astro All Asia Networks Plc, UK, M/s Maxis Communications Berhad, Malaysia, M/s South Asia Entertainment Holdings, Malaysia — and then Additional Secretary (Telecom) J S Sarma, who had died during the course of the probe.
They were charge sheeted for alleged offence of criminal conspiracy under the IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.