JAMMU: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Hilal Rather, son of a former National Conference minister, in a Rs 177 crore bank fraud case. Hilal, son of former finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather, was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on January 17 for his alleged involvement in misappropriation of crores of rupees from the term loans sanctioned by J&K Bank for his ambitious township project known as Paradise Avenue at Narwal Bala, Jammu in 2012. The case was later taken over by the CBI. Hilal was granted bail by Justice Iqbal Wani on surety bond of Rs five lakh with a direction to surrender his passport and not to leave Jammu and Kashmir, a court official said. The CBI took over the probe against Hilal in March and a special court subsequently refused to grant him interim bail, rejecting his fears of contracting COVID-19 and noting that he was “more at risk outside the prison”.
He had moved an application using WhatsApp on medical grounds before the Special CBI judge, Jammu seeking interim bail after the central probe agency filed a chargesheet against him and others in the fraud case within 10 days of taking over the case. In this application, Hilal had cited the prevailing threat of contracting the coronavirus during his incarceration. The case which was probed by the anti-corruption branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police was handed over to the CBI because of “international ramifications” of the conspiracy of loan funds diversion.
“The possibility of stashing of funds and diversion of funds to subversive elements cannot be ruled out,” the ACB had stated as one of the reasons for handing over the probe to the central agency. It is alleged that Hilal had taken a loan from the J&K Bank for his ambitious township project in 2012, when his father was the Finance Minister of the erstwhile state, and that the loan was sanctioned without submitting any collateral and the money was diverted from the bank account.
The account had turned a non-performing asset in 2017, the officials had said. In the chargesheet filed before the Special Court, Jammu, the CBI has also named the then branch heads of J and K Bank, New University Campus branch, Iqbal Singh and Arun Kapoor as accused. The CBI has alleged that Hilal entered into a criminal conspiracy with the then officials of the Bank to get loans of Rs 177.68 crore (approx) in violation of the rules and guidelines.
“The loans that were sanctioned for construction of flats were allegedly diverted and misappropriated by the accused using the bank accounts of his employees. It was further alleged that the accused submitted forged certificates and bills to the bank,” a CBI spokesperson had said. On August 6, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launched multiple raids at 16 locations in Kashmir, Jammu, Delhi and Ludhiana in connection with the money laundering case linked to the bank fraud probe against Hilal.
The ED had filed a money laundering case against Hilal and others, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), taking cognisance of a CBI FIR and Income Tax Department probe against him in the alleged bank fraud scam. The allegations were denied by Hilal’s family after the agency filed an FIR in the case.
A statement issued by Hilal’s legal counsel had earlier claimed that having failed in its primary task of holding public officials accountable, the agency (ACB) was trying to give a different colour to the case by resorting to canards and false accusations. (PTI)