A Delhi court today dismissed a bail plea of former Fortis Healthcare Promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh in a money laundering case related to alleged misappropriation of funds at Religare Finvest Ltd (RFL).
Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav said the accused utilised the proceeds of crime derived out of criminal activities related to scheduled offence and various acts attributed to him regarding advancement of unsecured loans to different entities and unlawful dealing with proceeds of crime have come to the light during investigation.
The court further said the fact that Shivinder Mohan Singh managed to smuggle a phone while he was in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) spoke volume about his conduct and intention.
"The reply of ED has averred that during ED custody, accused (Shivinder) misused the facility of provision of home cooked food and to meet his family members for half an hour a day as he got a mobile phone smuggled through his driver who was bringing food and accused used that mobile phone to talk/chat with his known persons and associates in the washroom. When accused can indulge in such nefarious activities while being in custody, it will be reasonable to conclude that accused, if released on bail, will try to tamper with evidence and influence the witnesses," it said in its order.
It further said that the company Religare Enterprises Limited (REL) was clearly cheated as loans were allegedly extended by Shivinder Singh to the companies/entities controlled by his friends/relatives/family members and other accused persons and various entities had ultimately defaulted.
"The amount involved in the case is huge, Rs 2397 crores. Economic offences having deep routed conspiracies and involving loss of public funds need to be viewed seriously and considered as grave offences affecting the economy of the country as a whole and thereby causing threat to the financial health of the country," it said.
Malvinder Singh, also a former Fortis Healthcare promoter; former CMD of Religare Enterprises Ltd (REL) Sunil Godhwani (58); former CEO of REL Kavi Arora (48) and former CFO of RFL Anil Saxena have also been arrested in the case.
The court observed that it has been revealed during investigation that entities either owned or associated with Shivinder Mohan Singh were allegedly involved in systematic placement/layering acquisition and projection of proceeds of crime as untainted over a long period.
"A letter which is part of the documents filed with the charge sheet established conspiracy between all the accused. It was also found during investigation that funds were siphoned off by Shivinder Mohan Singh along with Malvinder Mohan Singh and in connivance with co-accused Sunil Godhwani were utilized for repaying existing liability of their company. Thus, accused utilised the proceeds of crime derived out of criminal activities related to scheduled offence," the court noted.
It, however, added that the observations made were tentative and confined to the disposal of the bail application and would not have any bearing on the merits of the case during trial. During the hearing held through video conferencing, ED's Special Public Prosecutor Nitesh Rana opposed the bail application saying REL was cheated allegedly on account of act and conduct of Shivinder Singh and that is why complaint was filed by REL.
He further said that Shivinder Singh may influence witnesses who have cooperated with ED during investigation and granting him bail can frustrate the proceedings of attachment of the property of accused.
Mr Rana added that tracing the money trail is still in progress and a supplementary complaint will be filed in due course in Economic Offences.
Senior advocate N Hariharan and advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, appearing for Shivinder Mohan Singh, argued that all details of transactions were made available to the probe agency even before the arrest of of the accused.
Mr Hariharan further said that the entire evidence was documentary and hence there was no possibility of tampering if the accused was released on bail.
Entire electronic evidence has been seized during investigation which cannot be tampered with, the counsel said.
He further claimed that basic decisions regarding loans were taken by co-accused Sunil Godhwani as he was the Executive Director and Shivinder Singh was unaware of the transactions.
Unsecured loans constitute about two percent of total turn-over of the company and hence there was no siphoning off funds of the company by him, he told the court.
Mr Hariharan further said that the call made by Shivinder Singh by an alleged smuggled phone was an innocuous call and had nothing to do with the investigation with the case.
RFL is a group firm of REL - Religare Enterprises Ltd, which was earlier promoted by Malvinder Singh and his brother Shivinder Singh.
The EOW registered a first information report (FIR) in March last year after it received a complaint from RFL's Manpreet Suri against Shivinder Singh, Sunil Godhwani and others, alleging that loans were taken by them while managing the firm but the money was invested in other companies. ED lodged a money laundering case based on this.