Delhi HC grants bail to Dubai-based businessman in PMLA case

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A complaint had been filed related to siphoning off an amount of Rs 18.88 crores in 2014-15 on the basis of fake/fictitious invoices.

The Delhi High Court has granted bail to a Dubai-based businessman arrested under the  Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) following a complaint related to siphoning off an amount of Rs 18.88 crores from one M/s Ligare Aviation Limited in 2014-15 on the basis of fake/fictitious invoices.

A single judge bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani noted that petitioner Ramesh Manglani had materially co-operated in the investigation and he was not likely to commit any offence under the PMLA while on bail.

The bench also said, for the purpose of grant of regular bail, “the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the petitioner is ‘not guilty’ of the offence under section 3 of the PMLA”.

The court also noted Sanjay Godhwani, who may be viewed as one of the main accused in this case, had been granted bail by the trial court on May 09, 2023.

Manglani was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate from his Mumbai residence on August 3, 2022.

After hearing senior advocate Siddharth Aggarwal and advocate Arjun Dewan for the petitioner, the bench said that it was of the view that he deserved to be granted relief and admitted him to regular bail pending trial.

The court, however, directed him to furnish a personal bond in the sum of Rs 25 Lakh with one surety in the like amount from a family member, to the satisfaction of the trial court. 

“The petitioner shall furnish to the Investigating Officer/S.H.O. a cell-phone number on which the petitioner may be contacted at any time and shall ensure that the number is kept active and switched-on at all times. The petitioner shall surrender his passport to the learned trial court and shall not travel out of India without prior permission of the learned trial court,” the court said.

The ECIR was registered in September 2020 by the ED under Sections 3 and 4 of the PMLA. 

It was alleged that the accused persons had siphoned-off an amount of Rs 18.88 crores from one M/s. Ligare Aviation Limited (Ligare Aviation) in 2014-15 on the basis of fake/fictitious invoices. 

M/s Malav Holdings Private Limited, the complainant company was stated to be aggrieved since it was an indirect shareholder in Ligare Aviation, in that the complainant company statedly held 50 percent shares in RHC Holding Pvt. Ltd., which in turn held a 30 percent stake in Ligare Aviation. Further, RHC Holding Pvt. Ltd.l also held 67.27 percent in RHC Finance Pvt Ltd, which in turn held the rest 70 percent in Ligare Aviation.

The petitioner, admittedly a resident of Dubai, arrived in India in April 2022, when he was intimated by the immigration authorities about a look-out-circular issued against him. 

He was summonsed by the ED on April 5, 2022, to join the investigation and he was arrested by the investigating agency.

The trial court had dismissed his bail plea on August 31, 2022, and he moved the high court challenging that order.

The High Court noted, "Insofar as the ED not having arrested similarly placed co-accused persons; and not even having arraigned some other persons evidently connected with the offending transactions as accused in the prosecution complaint, though these aspects would not be dispositive of a bail plea one way or the other, they are also not wholly irrelevant and the ‘doctrine of parity’ is not immaterial".

It also ordered the petitioner shall not, whether directly or indirectly, contact or visit or have any transaction with any of the officials/employees of the banks, financial institutions companies, entities etc who are concerned with the prosecution complaint in this case, whether in India or abroad.

Case Title: Ramesh Manglani v. ED