Madras HC reserves judgment in Senthil Balaji's Bail Plea in Money Laundering Case

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Senthil Balaji was arrested by the ED on June 14 last year in a money laundering and job scam case

The Madras High Court in Wednesday reserved judgment in the bail plea of Tamil Nadu former minister V Senthil Balaji in a money laundering case.

Before the bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh, Senior Counsel C Aryama Sundaram appeared for the imprisoned former minister and Additional Solicitor General AR. L. Sundaresan represented the Enforcement Directorate (ED). 

The court heard the arguments raised by both sides at length before reserving it's judgment.

On February 14, the Senior Counsel for the former minister alleged that the digital evidence presented by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to assert charges of money laundering against Senthil Balaji was questionable. He claimed that hard disks and pen drives allegedly recovered by ED had been fabricated.

He asserted that the agency is saying that it will prove the authenticity of the evidence during trial but the same could not be accepted to keep the former minister inside jail.

Contending that the agency opposed the bail plea on the basis of Senthil Balaji's influence as a minister, the Senior Counsel had then asserted that his resignation from the post opened the possibility for relief, particularly given the completed investigation.

On the other hand, on February 16, Additional Solicitor General AR. L. Sundaresan for the ED submitted =that there had been no manipulation of digital evidence as was being alleged. 

He refuted the allegation that the seized hard disk, which was part of the digital evidence in the case, had been manipulated and digital files on it had been fabricated. He submitted that since thousands of files were on that hard disk, only after proper investigation, the forensic expert had picked out a few files and added them to the list of concerned files, later on. However, he claimed that all this happened before the registration of the ECIR by the ED on July 29, 2021.

The Additional Solicitor General (ASG) further submitted that the crime branch investigation had revealed certain evidence before the PMLA court that showed the former minister's involvement in money laundering.

Moreover, he contended that despite Balaji's resignation from his ministerial post, he still had the influence that he was likely to misuse and witnesses may be affected if he was released on bail. 

The ED arrested Senthil Balaji on June 14 last year in a money laundering and job scam case.

Allegedly, when Senthil Balaji, who recently resigned from the post of Tamil Nadu Electricity Minister, was serving as Transport Minister in Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet during 2011-15, a job racket took place where bribe was sought for jobs in the Metropolitan Transport Corporation. It is alleged that he had obtained money from third parties promising jobs in the Transport Department and thereafter cheated them.

Notably, Senthil Balaji moved a city court in Chennai last week seeking discharge in the money laundering case. The court on February 20 issued notice to the ED on the arrested ex-minister's plea returnable by March 4.