Funds used for ‘luxurious life’: ED; court reserves Gokhale’s bail plea order

© Provided by The Indian Express

An Ahmedabad court Thursday reserved its order on the bail application of Saket Gokhale for February 21 after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) submitted that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) national spokesperson has been evasive in disclosing the money trail.

During a lengthy hearing Thursday, the ED submitted that a Congress member also denied Gokhale’s claims that he was paid Rs 23 lakh in cash by the said individual.

“The investigation revealed that the funds were utilised for his personal expenses and living a luxurious life,” the ED submitted in an affidavit before the court of Ahmedabad rural principal district and sessions judge DM Vyas.

The ED also opposed Gokhale’s bail application citing heart ailments citing precedents set by earlier judgments refusing bail on medical grounds on account of serious charges. It also pointed out that Gokhale was last admitted in the hospital in October 2021 and was yet to submit details of any further medical treatment he received or emergency he faced. Based on his medical records, Gokhale is a chronic smoker and “has been advised to give up on the same as part of his medical precautions”, ED submitted.

Arrested by the ED on January 25, Gokhale is facing probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act for alleged misuse of money received via crowdfunding based on an FIR lodged by the cyber crime police station in Ahmedabad in December 28 on the charges of cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy as well as offences under the Information Technology Act.

The ED is investigating the money trail of nearly Rs 1.07 crore in Gokhale’s accounts, of which around Rs 76 lakh was received through online crowdfunding campaigns and Rs 23 lakh via cash transfers.

According to the ED, Gokhale had received Rs 23.54 lakh in cash, purportedly from Congress’s Alankar Sawai. However, no income tax returns were filed for the same. It was also submitted that Sawai has “categorically denied the claim of Saket Gokhale”.

However, on behalf of Gokhale, advocate Anand Yagnik Thursday submitted that not declaring Rs 23 lakhs in ITR would attract offences under the IT Act and not the PMLA Act.

The ED has alleged that Gokhale used the crowdfunded money for personal expenses and sustenance, including Rs 5.25 lakh spent on food and drinks, Rs 7.38 lakh on travel expenses such as flights and hotels, around Rs 75,000 on petcare expenses, Rs 32,000 on Starbucks and Rs 2.26 lakh on Apple product and services, among other expenses.

He had also purchased stocks and mutual funds worth Rs 92 lakh and “incurred a loss of approximately Rs 30 lakh through intra-day trading”, ED stated.

The agency also submitted that Gokhale paid Rs 1.26 lakh to a de-addiction centre called Moksh Foundation.