Digital evidence against me has been tampered with, claims Senthilbalaji before Madras High Court

Seeks bail in a money laundering case on the ground that the ED had completed investigation and that he too was not a Minister anymore

Updated - February 15, 2024 06:34 pm IST

Published - February 15, 2024 12:24 am IST - CHENNAI

Senthilbalaji. File

Senthilbalaji. File | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Former Minister V. Senthilbalaji on Wednesday claimed that the digital evidence such as hard disks and pen drives, relied upon by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to press the charge of money laundering against him, had been tampereed with and manipulated.

Urging Justice N. Anand Venkatesh to grant bail to the accused forthwith, Senior Counsel C. Aryama Sundaram said, once the prime evidence becomes suspect then the prosecution could not be heard to say that it shall prove the authenticity of the evidence only during trial.

The Senior Counsel said, the ED had registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 only on the basis of multiple cases that had been registered by the State police regarding alleged cash for jobs scam when the petitioner served as Transport Minister between 2011 and 2015.

He pointed out that a seizure mahazar had mentioned that a HP harddisk had been seized from the Minister but what was produced before the court concerned was a Seagate harddisk. “Where did this Seagate harddisk come from, where is the proof of it having been seized?” he asked.

Mr. Sundaram stated that the ED had relied upon evidences that had been fabricated by the predicate agency. He also brought it to the notice of the court that several files in the pen drive as well as the hard disks had been created way back in 2015 but had been modified in 2022.

Further, stating that the ED had relied upon ₹1.34 crore deposited in the petitioner’s bank accounts between 2013 and 2022 to arrive at a conclusion that it was ill-gotten wealth, the senior counsel said, the entire deposites had been declared to the income tax department and there were proper accounts for them.

He said the petitioner had received a salary of ₹58,94,000 during the said period for having been a Member of the Legislative Assembly. If that amount gets deducted, then the quantum of alleged proceeds of crime would fall below the mininum ceiling limit of ₹1 crore required to invoke the PMLA, he added.

Further, pointing out that were multiple changes in circumstances since the petitioner’s first bail plea on medical grounds was rejected, Mr. Sundaram said, the investigation was now complete and the petitioner was also not a Minister anymore for the prosecution to claim that he might influence the witnesses.

After hearing him at length on Wednesday, the judge decided to hear the counter arguments of Additional Solicitor General AR.L. Sundaresan for the ED on Thursday.

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