The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday opposed the bail plea filed by Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez in connection with Rs 200 crore money laundering case. The ED argued that the Sri Lankan national has “huge stature and influence”.
The ED made the remarks in the court while opposing the bail plea filed by the Bollywood diva.
Hearing on regular bail plea and other pending applications have been scheduled for November 10.
In its application, a copy of which is in possession of The New Indian, the ED told the court: “It is a very genuine and reasonable apprehension of the prosecution that mere presence of the applicant at large shall intimate the witnesses not to disclose any information regarding the ill-gotten money or money laundered by Fernandez or the layering of the proceeds of crime. It is respectfully submitted that the applicant is not an ordinary person but a Bollywood actress having huge financial resources and hence has a high stature and influence in the society.”
The ED said that it is significant to mention that Fernandez has “never cooperated” with the investigation and only when confronted with evidence and statements, she had made disclosure.
The ED told the court that she initially did not admit to the fact that she received both money and gifts and transferred it to her parents, brothers and sisters which had been otherwise established during investigation.
“Further she kept on improving her statements and even till date she continues to deny all the proceeds of crime used and enjoyed by her,” the ED alleged.
The ED further said that Fernandez’s “conduct does not give rise to a reason to believe that she would be available to this court at any stage”.
“The applicant (Fernandez) possesses a high flight risk as she is a citizen of Sri Lanka and it is a genuine and reasonable apprehension of the prosecution that she will most likely not cooperate with this court just like she didn’t cooperate with the respondent (ED) during investigation and made an abortive bid to flee away from India,” the ED said.
The financial probe agency opposing the bail plea of the actor said that joining the investigation is one thing and cooperating with the investigation is another.
“The applicant (Fernandez) did not cooperate with the investigation which will be clear from the perusal of the statements of the applicant. Further with respect to the arrest of the applicant, it is submitted that power of arrest is one thing whereas exercise of such power is another and the decision to effect arrest is a prerogative of the investigating officer,” the ED said.
The agency also argued that Fernandez is not entitled to regular bail.
“The benefit of the first provision to sec 45(1) PMLA would not apply to the applicant. By virtue of 2018 amendment “or is accused either on his own or along with other co-accused of money-laundering a sum of less than one crore rupees”, the agency said.
The ED also denied that there is no allegation against the actor. “The allegations against Fernandez are grave and serious in nature and there is ample evidence on record to substantiate the same.
“She not only used and enjoyed the proceeds of crime (POC) herself but also shared the proceeds of crime (POC) with her family members staying abroad while very well knowing that the money/gifts showered by the accused Sukesh Chandrasekhar is nothing but proceeds of crime. That an amount of Rs 7.12 crore has been identified till now as proceeds of crime. Initially she had denied that Chandrasekhar sent money to the tune of Rs 15 lakh to Advaita Kala on her behalf despite being confronted with evidence on record on August 30 last year but on October 20 last year Fernandez admitted the transactions,” the ED said.
“Fernandez further admitted to tampering of evidence by way of deleting data on her phone and informing others to do the same,” the agency alleged.
The ED also said that Fernandez was “never a victim”.
“She played an active role in utilizing her relationship with Chandrasekhar very well knowing that he was a criminal and is involved in numerous cases and thereby enjoyed the proceeds of crime showered by him,” the ED alleged.
The agency also said that the amount of knowledge and details she had about the conman can in no way make her eligible to be a victim.
A victim would, in every situation, cooperate to get justice but evidence on record would show that Sukesh on many instances had tried to assist the accused or applicant during the investigation itself and further the conduct of the applicant is now established during investigation which makes her an accused.
The probe agency countered her claims of being a “victim herself”. It asked why she did not raise a complaint against Chandrasekhar.
Instead, the evidence on record shows that she consciously hid material facts from the prosecution to shield herself as well Chandrasekhar and she never suffered any loss. Rather she benefited out of the POC that was showered on her by the co-accused Chandrasekhar, the ED alleged.
The ED also claimed that the criminal antecedents of Chamdrasekhar was well within the knowledge of the Sri Lankan national.
“The information with regard to criminal antecedents of Chandrasekhar was shared with Fernandez by Shaan Muthathil — her hairdresser — within 10 days of getting introduced to him and on receipt of valuable gifts and amounts,” the ED said.
“Fernandez admitted having knowledge of an article shared by Muthathil and about the criminal antecedents of Chandrasekhar. Further the conversations between Muthathil and Pinky, other co-accused revealed that Fernandez knew about the news article and video about Chandrasekhar.
The ED said that on February 13, 2021 Muthathil shared YouTube video and news articles with Fernandez and thereby the knowledge of the crime and thereafter the proceeds of crime, therefore, on the part of the applicant cannot be ruled out.