HC asks ED to respond to Jacqueline’s plea to quash FIR in money laundering case

The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to respond to Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez’s plea seeking quashing of an FIR against her in a Rs 200 crore money laundering case involving alleged conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar.

Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice to the ED on the actor’s petition and listed the matter for further hearing on January 29, 2024.

The petition has also sought the quashing of the second supplementary charge sheet filed by the ED in the case and the related proceedings pending before a trial court here.

Fernandez is an accused in the money laundering case lodged against Chandrasekhar.

The ED’s counsel opposed the petition on the ground of maintainability, saying a special court has taken cognisance of the prosecution complaint (charge sheet) and taken a view that a prima facie case is made out to be proceeded with, and there is no challenge to the cognisance order.

When there is no challenge to the order of cognisance taken by the special judge, challenge to the prosecution complaint is not maintainable, the ED’s counsel contended.

He said the actor has not refuted the allegations that she received gifts worth Rs 7.12 crore from Chandrasekhar and gifts worth Rs 1.12 crore were delivered to her sister in Sri Lanka.

There are allegations of receiving proceeds of crime and retaining them, and these are sufficient to attract money laundering proceedings, he contended.

The counsel representing Fernandez submitted that the prayers in the petition cover every order passed in the criminal proceedings initiated in the case and that the order of cognisance of the prosecution complaint has got nothing to do with Fernandez.

He said the order of cognisance was passed much before her being made an accused in the case.

Fernandez said in her plea, At the outset it is submitted that evidence filed by the Directorate of Enforcement would prove that the petitioner (Fernandez) is an innocent victim of Sukesh Chandrasekhar’s maliciously targeted attack. There is absolutely no indication that she had any involvement whatsoever in aiding him to launder his purportedly ill-gotten wealth. Hence, she cannot be prosecuted for the offences under Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

It said the prosecution complaint filed against her confirmed that nowhere it has been alleged that she had the knowledge about the nefarious activities of accused no. 1 (Chandrasekhar) in extorting money from complainant Aditi Singh.

The entire complaint is silent about even a remote allegation of knowledge as attributed to the petitioner. It is impossible to suggest that the petitioner knowingly engaged in any of the activities that is today punished by Section 3 of the PMLA, the plea said.

Fernandez said she has been presented as a prosecution witness in the predicate offence in which the FIR was lodged by the Special Cell of Delhi Police and added that her statement has been recorded in that case which leads to a favourable conclusion in her favour.

This supports the contention that she had no knowledge whatsoever of the predicate offence (the main offence of extortion) committed by Chandrasekhar and his associates, she said.

Once the investigating agency, in its discretion, has presented the petitioner as a prosecution witness in the predicate offence, it logically follows that any proceedings arising as a consequence of the predicate offence should be quashed, her petition read.

It alleged that the ED has acted in a partisan manner while arraigning her as an accused in the money laundering case.

The ED has given a clean chit to Nora Fatehi (another Bollywood actor) despite it being an admitted fact on record that her family member received a BMW car from Sukesh Chandrasekhar on her instructions. It is of importance to note that the fact of Nora Fatehi receiving gifts from Sukesh Chandrasekhar has been presented to ED under the head dissipation of proceeds of crime’, it submitted.

The plea added that ED is playing hot and cold at the same time, and in identical facts, Fernandez has been arraigned as an accused.

Aditi Singh has been identified as the original complainant and artistes like Nora Fatehi whose family member received a BMW car, and other artistes like Nikita Tamboli, Chahatt Khanna and Sophia Singh who physically visited the Tihar jail premises have not been arraigned as an accused. This reflects malafide investigation against the present petitioner, it submitted.

Fernandez has appeared before the ED for questioning in the money laundering investigation against Chandrasekhar and others.

The Delhi Police had earlier registered an FIR against Chandrasekhar for allegedly duping the spouses of former promoters of Ranbaxy, Shivinder Singh, and Malvinder Singh, of Rs 200 crore. There are other ongoing investigations against him in several cases across the country.

Chandrasekhar and his wife Leena Paulose, facing proceedings in a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate, were earlier arrested by Delhi Police, along with others.

Police have also invoked the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case.

The Delhi Police had alleged that Paulose and Chandrasekhar along with others used hawala routes and created shell companies to park the money earned as proceeds of crime.