A Delhi court has denied bail to West Bengal police officer Ashok Kumar Mishra, arrested in a money laundering case related to coal scam, saying his job was to prevent the illegal activities but "it appears that he himself became a part of illegal coal mafia."
Mr Mishra, the inspector-in-charge of Bankura police station, was arrested on April 3, in the case with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) alleging that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew and Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee's family benefited from illicit funds obtained from certain illegal coal mining in the state under a "deep system" of political patronage driven by a "well-oiled" machinery.
The bail application was dismissed by Special Judge Virender Bhat who had heard arguments through video conferencing.
The judge, in the order passed on May 22, observed that the material collected during the investigation in the case so far, prima-facie showed involvement of the accused in the offence of money laundering to the tune of over Rs 100 crore.
"At the time of commission of offence, he was posted as Inspector-In-charge, Bankura Police Station. His job was to prevent the illegal activities but it appears that he himself became a part of illegal coal mafia. The allegations against him are very serious in nature.
"Even though he is not a flight-risk, there is reasonable possibility that he having been a senior police officer, may tamper with the witnesses and interfere in further investigation of this case if he is released on bail at this stage," the judge said and declined to accept the arguments of senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who represented Mr Mishra.
The accused allegedly had links with Anoop Majee, alias Lala, who is considered to be the kingpin of the scam.
The ED's Special Public Prosecutors, Amit Mahajan and Nitesh Rana opposed the plea saying that the accused had received Rs 168 crore from Mr Majee, which he was stated to have transferred to Delhi and overseas.
"The applicant has himself admitted in his statement to ED officials that he was involved in the transfer/facilitating transfer of funds through non-banking channels from India to London," the counsel said.
In its order, the court also said that economic offences like the offences covered under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) are considered to be very serious offences against the society at large and therefore, require different treatment in the matter of bail.
"These kinds of offences are committed with cool mind and calculated as well as deliberate design with the object of personal profit regardless of the consequences to the public/State," it said.
The agency had earlier arrested Bikash Mishra, the brother of Trinamool Congress youth leader Binay Mishra, in connection with the case.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on November 28 last year carried out a massive search operation in a number of locations in four states -- West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh -- after registering a case against Mr Majee.
The CBI had acted on information from "reliable sources" indicating illegal excavation and theft of coal in the leasehold area of Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) in "connivance" with the officials of ECL, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Railways.
The CBI team on February 23 visited the residence of Abhishek Banerjee and examined his wife Rujira Banerjee in connection with the case. The agency also examined Rujira Banerjee's relatives on the same matter.
The ED is probing the money laundering aspect of the alleged scam, officials said. If convicted, the accused can get a maximum punishment of seven-year jail term and fine.