Delhi court dismisses bail plea of journalist in money-laundering case

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New Delhi, Jul 17 (PTI) A court here dismissed on Saturday the bail plea of Delhi-based freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, arrested in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to alleged leakage and supply of sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana denied the relief to the accused, saying that if released on bail, he will definitely attempt to wipe off the footprints and cover up the traces.

Dismissing the journalist's bail application, the judge said, 'Sharma received lakhs of rupees on multiple occasions, invariably in cash, from dubious sources.' He said the accused, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on July 1, failed to furnish any palpable explanation regarding the receipt of the said money.

'It is further intriguing to note that the annual income of the accused was reported to be barely Rs 8.6 lakh and yet he is financing his son's education abroad, enjoying multiple foreign trips and is even lending lakhs of rupees to his friends and acquaintances for investment purposes,' the judge noted.

He further said, 'The allegations against the accused are serious in nature. The investigation is at a crucial juncture as the complete money trail is yet to be traced and releasing the applicant on bail at this stage would not be salubrious to the cause of justice, as he would definitely attempt to wipe off the footprints and cover up the traces.' In his bail plea, the 61-year-old accused claimed that he was falsely implicated in the case and that no prima facie case of money-laundering was made out against him.

He also claimed that he was suffering from acute sinus problems requiring constant treatment from a nebulizer and had also undergone two surgeries for sinus and therefore, was at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

'The only allegations against the accused, as levelled by the department, are of cash transactions, but there is nothing on record to prove that the said transactions are proceeds of crime,' the plea said.

The application was opposed by the counsel appearing for the ED.

The ED had arrested the accused under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The agency said its probe has found that Sharma 'had supplied confidential and sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for remuneration, thereby compromising the security and national interests of India'.

The ED case is based on a Delhi Police FIR filed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Sharma last year.

The journalist was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi Police on September 14 last year and charged with passing on information about the Indian Army's deployment and the country's border strategy to Chinese intelligence officers.

He was granted bail by the Delhi High Court in the case in December last year. PTI UK RC

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