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Special court rejects freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma's bail plea

He is arrested by ED on charges of money laundering

A special court on Saturday rejected the bail application of Rajeev Sharma, a freelance journalist who was recently arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on money laundering charge. The accused was arrested by the Delhi Police last September for allegedly supplying confidential information to Chinese intelligence officials.

In its order, the court noted that the allegations against Mr. Sharma were serious in nature. “The investigation is at a crucial juncture as the complete money trail is yet to be traced and releasing the applicant/accused on bail at this stage would not be salubrious to the cause of justice, as the applicant/accused would definitely attempt to wipe off the footprints and cover up the traces,” it said.

The court observed that from various statements recorded by the ED, it was evident that the accused had received lakhs of rupees on multiple occasions, invariably in cash, from dubious sources. He had failed to furnish any explanation regarding the receipt of money from a person who did not have any apparent justifiable connection/relationship with him.

It was intriguing that Mr. Sharma’s annual income as reported by him was barely ₹8.60 lakh and yet he was financing his son’s education abroad, enjoying multiple foreign trips and lending lakhs of rupees to his friends and acquaintances for investment purposes, the court noted.

During the proceedings held through video conferencing, Mr. Sharma’s counsel submitted that he had been falsely implicated in the case; that he suffered from sinus problems for which he required constant treatment with a nebuliser; he had also undergone two surgeries for sinus and, therefore, was at a high risk of contracting COVID-19.

They said that no prima facie case of money laundering was made out against him; the electronic evidence had been seized by the agency; he had already been interrogated at length on different occasions; nothing incriminating was recovered from him; and that he had been granted bail by the High Court in the police case.

“Only allegations against the accused, as levelled by the department, are of cash deposits/transactions, but there is nothing on record to prove that the said transactions are proceeds of crime,” submitted the defence counsel.

The ED’s Special Public Prosecutor opposed the bail application. He alleged that Mr. Sharma was working with various media houses and news agencies, but in case of some organisations he received all the money in cash via shell companies, MZ Mall Private Limited and MZ Phharmacy, based in Delhi, run by Chinese nationals. He also received money through “hawala” transactions, as alleged.

According to the agency, some of Mr. Sharma’s foreign trips and that of his wife were financed by Chinese nationals. The agency said it had never interrogated the accused prior to the search at his house on June 25.

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