SC to hear SFIO plea against interim bail to industrialist

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New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court will hear on Thursday a plea by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) against grant of interim bail to Bhushan Steel’s erstwhile promoter Neeraj Singal in the alleged siphoning of around Rs 2,500 crore in loans raised by the company.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Wednesday decided on the Thursday morning hearing when Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made a strong plea for the reversal of the Delhi High Court’s interim bail.

This was opposed by senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, C.A. Sundram and Siddharth Luthra, who contended that Singal has been granted interim bail subject to stringent conditions.

A bench of Justice S. Muralidhar and Vinod Goel of the High Court earlier in the day granted interim bail to Singal on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 5 lakh and two sureties of Rs 2 lakh each.

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The court had directed Singal not to meet any of the witnesses whose statements may have been recorded by the SFIO. Also, he should not in any manner, directly or indirectly, seek to tamper with the course of investigation or the evidence gathered.

On August 8, the SFIO had arrested Neeraj Singal, a former Managing Director of Bhushan Steel, accusing him of involvement in a series of corporate frauds punishable under the Companies Act, 2013.

Even as Singhvi and Sundram told the court that Bhushan Steel had been taken over by Tata Group following proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Mehta told the bench that he had floated nearly 85 shell companies through which he used to circulate the money which eventually ended up with him.

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Singhvi told the court that the matter related to 2016 and the High Court had granted him interim bail after taking into account all factors.

However, Mehta told the court that a fraud that stood at Rs 2,500 crore may touch Rs 10,000 crore and if Singal is set free all investigation which is at a critical stage would get defeated.

Initially hesitant to interfere with the bail order, the court said that it would take up the SFIO’s plea as a first item on Thursday, telling the lawyers for Singal that no prejudice would be caused to him as he is to be released on Thursday only.

When Mehta said that the High Court was slated to hear at 4.30 p.m. Singal’s plea for release on Wednesday itself, Justice Chandrachud said that he could inform the High Court of the apex court hearing on Thursday morning.

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A probe had allegedly found that the erstwhile promoters of the company used a multitude of complex and fraudulent manoeuvres to divert thousands of crores raised from public sector banks using several associate companies.

–IANS

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