HC dismisses plea alleging illegal custody of accused in Vivo money laundering case

The ED had then alleged that a whopping Rs 62,476 crore was "illegally" transferred by Vivo-India to China to avoid payment of taxes in India.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has rejected petitions alleging the judicial custody of the Managing Director of Lava International mobile company, Hari Om Rai, and two other accused in a money laundering case involving smartphone maker Vivo was illegal.

A bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait dismissed the habeas corpus petitions by Rai’s son and two other accused- Chinese national Guangwen alias Andrew Kuang and CA Nitin Garg.

A habeas corpus petition is filed seeking direction of a court to produce a person who is missing or has been detained illegally. Anyone who believes they have been under illegal detention by law enforcement officials or someone on their behalf can file a writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court or the high court within whose jurisdiction they live through their lawyer.

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The petitioners argued there was no judicial order remanding the accused in judicial custody on December 7 and so their detention in Tihar jail was not as per law.

The bench, also comprising Justice Shalinder Kaur, said it was unable to sustain the submissions of the petitioners as there was no “break” in their custody, and the trial court rightly directed issuance of production warrants for the next date of hearing.

It noted that after being initially remanded in ED custody, the petitioners were being sent to jail under judicial remand from time to time till December 7.

“The judicial custody of the petitioners was expiring on 07.12.2023, however, the peculiar and distinct facts and circumstances as emerging from present writs are that the petitioners were not produced before the learned ASJ (additional sessions judge)-04. All the petitioners were represented through their respective counsels and no objection was raised by any of the counsels regarding order for production warrants of the petitioners,” the court said.

“The learned ASJ-04 has rightly issued production warrants against the petitioners on 07.12.2023 for production of the petitioners and the petitioners remain in lawful custody of learned ASJ-04. The submissions and views expressed merit no substance in the writ petitions. The same shall, accordingly, stand dismissed,” the court concluded in an order dated December 19.

On Wednesday, a trial court took cognisance of the charge sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate against Vivo-India and others in a money laundering case, including the petitioners, and issued summons.

The chargesheet was filed earlier this month under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The ED has claimed the alleged activities of the accused enabled Vivo-India to make wrongful gains that were detrimental to the economic sovereignty of the country.

The anti-money laundering agency had raided Vivo-India and persons linked to it in July last year and claimed to have busted a major money laundering racket involving Chinese nationals and multiple Indian companies.

The ED had then alleged that a whopping Rs 62,476 crore was “illegally” transferred by Vivo-India to China to avoid payment of taxes in India.

The company had rejected the allegations, saying it “firmly adheres to its ethical principles and remains dedicated to legal compliance.”

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