Former T.N. Minister Senthilbalaji seeks discharge from ED case

Mr. Senthilbalaji said the ED was relying on secondary evidence, the genuineness of which was suspect

February 16, 2024 04:08 pm | Updated 04:59 pm IST - CHENNAI

Former Minister V. Senthilbalaji

Former Minister V. Senthilbalaji | Photo Credit: Ragu R

Former Minister and DMK MLA V. Senthilbalaji on Friday, February 16, 2024, filed a petition at the Principal Sessions Court in Chennai seeking discharge from the cases registered against him, by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED).

Mr. Senthilbalaji’s counsel, N. Bharanikumar, filed the petition when the Principal Sessions Judge S. Alli took up the case to frame charges against him. Consequently, the judge deferred the framing of charges.

Mr. Senthilbalaji was arrested by the ED on June 14 last year, on a charge of money-laundering that arose from a case relating to a cash-for-jobs scam in the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, which was filed against him by the Central Crime Branch of the Greater Chennai Police. The allegation against him was that he and his associates had collected money from aspirants to various posts in the MTC, when he was Transport Minister (2011-15) in the Jayalalithaa government.

The discharge petition filed by Mr. Senthilbalaji said the appointing authorities for the transport corporation were categorised as Managing Director of the Board, General Manager etc., depending on the powers delegated to that person, based on their post. As this was the case, the predicated crime against him had no basis, as he, as then Transport Minister, had had no role in the process of appointments. The entire case, he contended, had been foisted to wreak vengeance against him.

Also read | Total proceeds of crime in Senthilbalaji’s case is ₹67.75 crore, ED tells Madras High Court

“If all the statements of witnesses are conjointly read, there is nothing incriminating against the petitioner nor there is an overt act against the petitioner, nor they have stated the direct involvement of the petitioner. The statement would certainly prove that the petitioner was not involved in the alleged scam of cash for job or the allegations of money laundering by ED,” read his petition.

Mr. Senthilbalaji’s counsel submitted that the entire case, and the documents relied on by the ED, were based on the predicate/schedule offence that was pending before the special court for cases related to MPs/MLAs, in Chennai. It was an admitted fact that the documents in the ED’s possession were secondary evidence, as the primary evidence was under the custody of the special court. In this scenario, the genuineness of the documents relied upon by the ED, could not be tested before the case pertaining to predicate offence was finalised, he contended.

In fact, there was no material on record to even infer that petitioner had committed an offence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, and therefore, the allegations were baseless and unsubstantiated, said the petition.

Mr. Senthilbalaji was produced before the judge via video-conferencing from the Central Prison, Puzhal. The judge extended his judicial remand until February 20.

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