As many as 18 firms were formed in the 1991-96 period only with a view to siphoning off the unlawful resources accumulated by then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the special court in the disproportionate assets case against her and three others has held.
Tracing the maze of transactions, the court said, during the check period (1991-96), as many as 18 firms had come into existence but it was proved in evidence that none of them carried on any business then. Special court judge John Michael D’Cunha said ten firms were constituted in a single day with the identical terms and conditions, even though none of them carried on business in terms of the said deeds.
At the beginning of the check period, Jayalalithaa and her close aide Sasikala were involved in only two concerns– Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises. In his verdict on Saturday last, the judge sent Jayalalithaa to four years in jail and slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on her. She is presently lodged in Bangalore jail.
Sasikala, her relatives V N Sudhakaran, also Jayalalithaa’s disowned foster son, and Elavarasi were also been sentenced to four years imprisonment, besides a fine of Rs 10 crore each.
Large amount of funds were diverted to these (firms’) accounts giving a clear indication that the firms were constituted only with a view to siphon off the unlawful resources accumulated by Jayalalithaa, the court said. The judge said Sasikala and Sudhakaran started independent concerns in their names during the period.
Not satisfied with this, even the defunct companies were bought by the accused, he said. …What has transpired in the evidence is that except buying large number of properties, no other business is carried on by any of these entities, the judge, whose verdict unseated Jayalalithaa as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, said.
Accounts were opened during the 1991-96 period and none of these firms or companies had their own accounts or independent resources, the judge said. The circumstances proved in evidence undoubtedly establish that these firms are nothing but extensions of Namadhu MGR and Jaya Publications.
They owed their existence to the benevolence of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala and drew continued sustenance from the funds transferred to their accounts, he said.
Though Jayalalithaa had feigned ignorance about the activities carried on by these firms, yet, it could not be forgotten that the firms and companies were operating from her residence, D’Cunha said in his 1136-page judgement. It is an admitted fact that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi were residing at Poes Garden along with Jayalalithaa, he said.
The judge said it could not be believed that being the Chief Minister of a state, she was unaware of the large-scale activities carried on by the persons living in her own house using her own residential address. Even the voters’ list of the accused were maintained at the address of Jayalalithaa, he said.
D’Cunha said the very fact that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi engaged themselves on constituting firms and acquiring large tracts of land out of the funds provided by the AIADMK supremo indicate that all the accused congregated in the house of Jayalalithaa pursuant to the criminal conspiracy hatched by them to hold her assets.
The flow of money from one account to the other would establish beyond reasonable doubt that all the accused had actively participated in the conspiracy to launder the ill-gotten wealth of Jayalalithaa for purchasing properties in the names of firms and companies acquired by them, he said.
He noted that Jayalalithaa had executed a general power of attorney (GPA) in favour of Sasikala in respect of Jaya Publications. Undisputedly, Jayalalithaa was a partner of the said firm and there was no necessity for her to execute any power of attorney in favour of Sasikala. The purpose behind executing the power of attorney in favour of Sasikala appeared to be to give her a free hand in the management of Jaya Publications and on that guise, the judge said.
The court was not convinced by Jayalalithaa’s defence that she was a dormant partner and was not aware of the transactions carried on by Sasikala. But, by executing the GPA in favour of Sasikala, Jayalalithaa has rendered herself liable for all acts and deeds performed by Sasikala pursuant to the powers conferred under the GPA, it said.
The judge said it was proved in evidence that substantial funds accumulated by Jayalalithaa were credited to the account of Jaya Publications and from it, they were diverted to the other accounts and ultimately was utilized for the acquisition of huge assets.
Therefore, it has to be presumed that Jayalalithaa was aware of the transfer of these funds and the purpose for which these funds were transferred to the other accounts, D’Cunha said. Even otherwise, the judge said, Sasikala being the agent, Jayalalithaa was bound to keep her to contend that being a dormant partner she was unaware of the activities carried on by Sasikala.
The circumstance of executing the power of attorney in favour of Sasikala indicates that to keep herself secure from legal complications, Jayalalithaa executed GPA knowing fully well that under the said powers, Sasikala would be dealing with her funds credited to her account in Jaya Publications, the court said.
It said it was established that, all these firms and companies had received funds diverted from the bank account of Jayalalithaa and out of these funds, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi acquired various properties. As the accused had failed to prove even by preponderance of probability that they had independent source of income to acquire the assets found in their possession, it goes without saying that all the acquisitions were made out of the source provided by Jayalalitha, it said.
As a result, the judge said that the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the real source for acquisition of assets was Jayalalithaa. Counsel for the accused had argued that, except the fact that Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi were residing together under a common roof, there was no other evidence to show that they were parties to the criminal conspiracy.
Not convinced with this, the judge said, The circumstances proved in the evidence conclusively establish that all the accused acted in a concert with each other with the sole object to acquire and hold properties and assets disproportionate to the known source of income of Jayalalithaa.
Another circumstance establishing conspiracy and abetment was the formation of a large number of firms in the names of Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, D’Cunha said.
It is not in dispute that, initially Jayalalithaa and Sasikala had commenced partnership business by constituting two partnership firms by name Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, he said.
The object of the company was offset printing for partnership. The certificate issued by central sales tax categorically stated that Jaya Publications did not file return up to 1998 as per the sales tax act, the judge said.
During the check point, the accused appeared to have constituted number of firms, he said. Eight firms were – J S Housing Development, JJ Leasing and Maintenance, Green Farm House, J farm House, J Real Estate, Jay Contractors and Builders, Metal King and Marble Marvels.
The other ten firms registered were- Vigneshwara Builders, Lakshmi Constructions, Gopal Promoters, Sakthi Constructions, Namasivaya Housing Developments, Ayappa Property Developments, Sea Enclave, Navasakthi Contractors and Builders, Oceanic Constructions, Green Garden Apartments and A P Advertising Services.
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