In a major setback to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a Special CBI Court, on Thursday, acquitted all accused, including former Telecom Minister A. Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi, from charges under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, arising out of the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore 2G scam case.
Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the Court also acquitted Shahid Balwa, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, Rajiv Aggarwal, Karim Morani, P. Amirtham, M.K. Dayalu Ammal and Sharad Kumar.
The chargesheet filed by the ED had also named nine companies as accused. These were Kalaignar TV, STPL (now Etisalat DB Telecom (P) Ltd), Kusegaon Realty (P) Ltd, Cineyug Media & Entertainment (P) Ltd, Dynamix Realty, Eversmile Construction Company (P) Ltd, Conwood Construction & Developers (P) Ltd, DB Realty Ltd and Mystical Construction (P) Ltd (earlier known as Nihar Constructions (P) Ltd).
At the outset, Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini noted that the ingredients of money laundering are: (a) commission of a scheduled offence; (b) "proceeds of crime", i.e., property is derived by the accused as a result of criminal activity relating to such scheduled offence; and (c) such "proceeds of crime" are projected as untainted property.
Judge Saini further explained, "Thus, "Proceeds of crime" is the essence and an indispensable element of the offence of money-laundering. It is the core constituent of the offence. Without the existence of proceeds of crime, there cannot be any commission of an offence of money laundering. It is only when "proceeds of crime" is projected or attempted to be projected as untainted property, the offence of money-laundering arises."
The Court then noted that as per the prosecution, Mr. A. Raja received illegal gratification of Rs. 200 crore for favors granted by him to Swan Telecom (P) Limited (STPL) by issuing 13 licenses and allocating spectrum in the year 2008-09. It had further been alleged that this money was later shown as untainted by executing several commercial transaction documents.
It, thereafter, noted that through a separate judgment, all the accused have been acquitted from commission of the alleged offences with the finding that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
It then ruled, "In view of acquittal of accused in the case relating to schedule offence, there are no "proceeds of crime". "Proceeds of crime" is the foundational fact for the offence of money-laundering. Since there are no "proceeds of crime", there can be no offence of money-laundering, as nothing remains to be laundered. Thus, the very base of the instant case is gone and the alleged offence stands wiped out."
The Court, therefore, acquitted all the accused, directing the ED to release the properties attached by it from those acquitted, after the time for filing an appeal is over.