The Delhi high court on Thursday rejected former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain’s plea challenging the charges framed against him in a money laundering case related to the 2020 northeast Delhi riots, saying that he acted “prima facie in conspiracy and engaged in money laundering with the proceeds of crime generated”.
Justice Anu Malhotra said that Hussain used the proceeds of crime, generated by fraudulently withdrawing money from the accounts of companies he owned or controlled through bogus and mala fide transactions, for riots.
According to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Hussain “hatched a criminal conspiracy with his associates to fraudulently withdraw money from the accounts of companies i.e. M/s. Show Effect Advertisement Pvt. Ltd. (SEAPL), M/s. Essence Cellcom Pvt. Ltd. (ECPL) and M/s. Essence Global Services Pvt. Ltd. (EGSPL) owned and controlled by him through bogus and mala fide transactions with bogus entry operators on the strength of fake bills and used this money to fund the Delhi riots”.
The court said that Hussain obtained property as a result of the criminal activity, which made him prima facie culpable under Section 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002. It said that there was no “infirmity” in the trial court’s order of framing charges against Hussain.
“That there were no proceeds of crime attached is not relevant, in as much as, in terms of Section 3 of the PMLA, 2002, the process or activity in connection with the proceeds of crime i.e. hatching a criminal conspiracy for violation of tax/ laws for subsequent use of such untainted money for funding riots in the North-Eastern part of Delhi, falls within the domain of commission of a criminal conspiracy..,” justice Malhotra said in a 100-page judgment.
On November 15, the court reserved its order on Hussain’s plea challenging the trial court’s order of November 3 order which framed charges of the alleged offence under Sections 3 (offence of money laundering) and 4 (punishment for the offence of money laundering) of the PMLA against him in connection with the 2020 riots in northeast Delhi.
The trial court, in its order, said that prima facie Hussain conspired to engage in money laundering and the proceeds generated from the crime were used for the riots. Besides this case, Hussain is also an accused in 10 FIRs of the Delhi Police, including the main conspiracy case of the northeast Delhi riots.
Challenging this decision, Hussain’s counsel had told the court that no property or proceeds of crime were seized from his client which could justify the framing of charges against him for the alleged offence of money laundering.
He had submitted that what Hussain was allegedly involved in, can at the most be considered to be a GST violation and that a GST violation may be punishable under the enactment dealing with GST violation and under the Income Tax Act, 1961 but that the same would not amount to the commission of any scheduled offence.
However, the court rejected this contention and said that the alleged commission of a conspiracy even for the purpose of GST violation in order to avail cash i.e. money through the process of the criminal conspiracy for use of the proceeds to cause unrest in north-eastern part of the city, prima facie falls within the ambit of commission of a scheduled offence.
The judge also noted that the statements of other witnesses all prima facie indicate the alleged complicity of the petitioner with persons to cause an illegal act to be done through illegal means.
The court said that one of the witnesses had disclosed that he saw Hussain giving money to two people related to the anti-CAA protests/Delhi riots because he drove Tahir Hussain in the Chand Bagh area where the protest was going on.
Reproducing the witness’ statement, the court noted that Hussain shouted to somebody to call a certain “Suleiman Siddiqui” and that after sometime, a person came up to him with his face covered with a cloth, and Hussain handed him a bundle of money. From their conversation, it was revealed that he was Suleiman Siddiqui.
“This witness is further stated to have said that there was a sudden surge in the known and unknown persons in the office of Tahir Hussain i.e. the petitioner a few days before the riots and that he saw him conducting meetings with these people many a times and sometimes some boys came on motorcycles to take Tahir Hussain with them and after riots when he saw videos related to riots on social media, he saw some people involved in rioting who were known to Hussain, who used to visit the petitioner before the riots..,” the court said noting the statement by Rahul Kasana, Hussain’s driver.
Communal riots had broken in northeast Delhi in February 2020 claiming 53 lives and leaving over 700 injured.