Supreme Court Quashes Money Laundering Case in Chhattisgarh Liquor Scam

SC quashes money laundering case against Chhattisgarh bureaucrat & Raipur mayor's kin due to lack of predicate offence, per bench ruling.

The Supreme Court on Monday quashed the money laundering case against a Chhattisgarh bureaucrat and the kin of the Raipur mayor in connection with the State's liquor policy scam case. Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan ruled that without a predicate offence, a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) couldn't be registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The bench clarified that a predicate offence, which is a component of a larger crime, must precede money laundering charges. They cited a recent judgment, asserting that the PMLA couldn't be invoked mechanically, especially under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

"In this case, ex-facie a scheduled offence is not in existence, therefore there cannot be proceeds of crime. Hence, it follows that there cannot be an offence under Section 3 of PMLA," the bench observed.

The case involved IAS officer Anil Tuteja, his son Yash Tuteja, Karishma Dhebar, Anwar Dhebar, Arun Pati Tripathi, and Siddharth Singhania. Anwar Dhebar is the brother of Raipur mayor Aijaz Dhebar, while Karishma Debhar is the former's wife.

Arising from an alleged ₹2,000 crore liquor syndicate racket during Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel's Chief Ministership, the accused were granted interim protection from arrest by the Supreme Court in July last year.

The bench reiterated its observation from March 18 this year, noting that the ED's complaint lacked any predicate/scheduled offence.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi represented the accused, while Additional Solicitor General SV Raju appeared for the ED.

Justice Oka emphasized during the April 5 hearing that without a predicate offence, money laundering charges couldn't stand. The court eventually found no grounds for money laundering in the absence of proceeds of crime arising from a predicate offence.