A Mumbai court has acquitted nine people, including Ashwin Mehta, brother of 1992 securities scam kingpin Harshad Mehta, in a case of duping the State Bank of India to the tune of Rs 105 crore.
Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, who presides over the special court set up for cases related to the 1992 securities scam, said in her judgment last week that there was no hesitation in holding that that the prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
Ashwin Mehta was a constituted attorney of Harshad Mehta and also one of the stock brokers in his brother's firms.
Apart from Ashwin Mehta, those acquitted are Rama Sitharaman, officer in-charge of securities division of the SBI, and seven other officials -- Bhushan Raut, C Ravi Kumar, S Suresh Babu, P Muralidharan, Ashok Agarwal, Janardhan Bandhopadhyay and Shyam Sundar Gupta.
According to the prosecution, the bank's officials in collusion with the Mehta brothers entered into a conspiracy to cheat SBI Caps, the investment banking branch of the country's largest lender, to the tune of Rs 105 crore in the sale and purchase transactions of securities from 1991 to 1992.
SBI Caps routed all 24 transactions via Harshad Mehta and allegedly suffered a loss, according to the Central Bureau of Investigation, the prosecuting agency in the case.
The case against prime accused Harshad Mehta was 'abated' after he died in 2001.
The CBI claimed the fund diversion could not have taken place without the knowledge of the accused bank officers.
The court, however, accepted the defence arguments that the funds were diverted from the main branch of the bank and hence, the case against the accused officers, who were in the securities division, could not be accepted.
"In light of the various gaps and missing links left open by the prosecution, may be on account of death of Harshad Mehta and the discharge of many accused in the case from time to time, the fact remains that the charge of conspiracy could not be proved," the court said.
The court also noted that there was a major lacuna in the sanction given to prosecute the officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Image: Stockbroker Harshad Mehta. Photograph: Reuters.