A court in New Delhi on Friday extended by three days the ED custody of four people arrested in a money laundering case against Chinese smart phone maker Vivo, including the managing director of Lava International mobile company and a Chinese national.
The four accused were produced before Additional Sessions Judge Devender Kumar Jangala on completion of their three-day ED custody.
On Friday, the agency moved four separate applications seeking extension of their custody by 10 days but the court granted it only three more days for custodial interrogation of the accused.
"I am of the considered opinion that the ED is able to make out the case for grant of further custody remand.
"However, it is clarified that the ED is duty bound to explain that the custody period is properly utilised for the purposes of investigation," ASJ Jangala said.
"The accused persons namely Hari Om Rai, Nitin Garg, Rajan Malik and Guangwen Kuang alias Andrew are accordingly further remanded to ED custody till October 16," the judge added.
The court directed that the interrogation be conducted at a place having CCTV coverage and the footage be preserved.
"Accused persons shall be medically examined once in every 48 hours during the above period…the accused persons shall also be permitted to meet their advocates for half an hour daily between 6pm to 7pm during the said period of their ED custody in a manner that the ED officials are not able to hear their conversations," the court said.
Noting that the public prosecutor had submitted on Tuesday that Hari Om Rai has not taken food despite it being served in custody, the court said Rai wanted to have an audience with higher officers of the ED.
This request was, however, strongly opposed by the prosecutor who said it was prohibited under the PMLA.
The court then said, "The officers of ED are public servants subservient to the Constitution of India, hence bound to hear the grievance of any person, including the accused."
It said there was no such prohibition under the PMLA.
"Accordingly, the investigating officer is directed to produce the accused Hari Om Rai before the joint director/special director of ED to give him a personal hearing for redressal of his grievance relating to the ED," the court said.
During the proceedings, the prosecution sought extension of their custody so they could be interrogated further.
It said they had to be confronted with 13 witnesses and digital data from multiple devices had to be extracted.
The defence counsel opposed the agency's plea, claiming the ED was engaging in "flagrant violation of procedures".
The four accused were taken arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The agency had raided the company and individuals linked to it in July last year, claiming 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 to China in order to avoid payment of taxes in India.