In a huge relief to Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez, a Delhi court on Monday granted her interim bail in connection with an alleged money laundering probe involving conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar.
Fernandez has been named as an accused in the chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the case. She was asked to appear in court on September 26 after it took cognizance of the ED chargesheet.
On Monday, Fernandez appeared in court wearing a white shirt and black pants. The court granted her interim bail with a bail bond of Rs 50,000. The court put the matter for the next hearing on October 23.
The court also provided Fernandez a copy of the chargesheet filed by ED against her, naming her as an accused in the case. The ED probe revealed that the actress knew of the criminal past of conman Chandrasekhar. The ED also said that the Sri Lankan actress continued to indulge in financial transactions with Chandrasekhar despite knowing about his criminal past.
The ED is investigating the money trail in a ₹200 crore extortion case against the conman. It had named Fernandez as an accused earlier this month.
A Special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Delhi, on September 1 took cognizance of the ED chargesheet filed against Fernandez earlier this month. It had summoned Fernandez to appear before it on September 26.
Citing the chats of another accused, Pinki Irani, the ED in its chargesheet stated that there is evidence that established Fernandez’s knowledge of the criminal history of Chandrasekhar.
The ED said that during its investigation, it was revealed that on February 13, 2021, Fernandez’s hairdresser, Shaan Muthathil, had shared a news article dated February 10, 2020, with the headline ‘Look Out Notice against Actress Leena Maria Paul in CBI case’ with Irani on her WhatsApp.
“In this conversation, Shaan sent messages viz ‘we saw an article’, ‘she is also so high profile and she knows ppl on the high end. And she got to know the news. She is like is it all just soo fraud. Who is that girl who is in jail’ ,” the ED had alleged.
During ED investigation, it was found that from the chat between Shaan and Angel (Pinky Irani) on February 13, 2021, it was revealed that Shaan had informed Pinki that Fernandez is so sad and she is not talking to anyone, because she saw so much about Sekhar (Chandrasekhar).
“This reflects that the said article was also shared by Shaan with Fernandez,” the ED claimed.
The ED further said that apart from this article, Fernandez had herself found out about various articles from the internet search reflecting the criminal past of Chandrasekhar and had confronted it with him. But she “conveniently accepted” the explanation offered by Chandrasekhar and Irani.
“In a news article, it was mentioned that CBI had registered a case again TDP MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao for bank fraud: Days after CBI raid conducted on the premises of TDP MP, people who were associates of Leena Maria Paul approached to bribe and were subsequently arrested; Paul was shown to be the partner of Chandrasekhar.
Mentioning how Fernandez ignored Chandrasekhar’s criminal past, it said, “The article uploaded on the internet on February 10, 2020, within one year from interactions, also mentions that Chandrasekhar is currently, i.e. as on February 10, 2020, lodged in Tihar Jail.”
“What efforts were taken by Fernandez to find out whether he was released from Tihar within one year? Fernandez seemed to have conveniently overlooked or preferred to sideline the fact that he has strong criminal antecedents,” the ED alleged.
“Thus, she was aware of the news article shared by Shaan as well as various articles she had searched on Google reflecting criminal antecedents of Sukesh and Leena,” the ED alleged.
“She (Fernandez) consciously chose to overlook Chandrasekhar’s criminal past and continued to indulge in financial transactions with him. Not only Fernandez but even her family members and friends benefitted from their relationship financially,” the ED alleged in its chargesheet.
The ED also claimed that the money laundering probe so far has revealed that the actor is directly or indirectly involved in the proceeds of crime.
The ED alleged that she acquired, possessed, and used part proceeds of crime – valuable gifts for herself and her family members in India and abroad – therefore, she committed an offence of money laundering under Section 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002, which is punishable under section 4 of PMLA.
The Bollywood actress is the only person named in the ED supplementary chargesheet.
Chandrasekhar was arrested by the Delhi Police for allegedly extorting around ₹215 crore from Aditi Singh and Shivender Singh, former promoters of pharmaceutical giant Ranbaxy.