Ex-Air Force Squadron Leader Convicted For Amassing Illicit Assets

A special Court has convicted a former Indian Air Force Squadron Leader for allegedly moving funds for a former Congress MP for a land deal and amassing disproportionate assets worth Rs 40.36 lakh, officials said Monday.

Ex-Air Force Squadron Leader Convicted For Amassing Illicit Assets

A special Court has convicted a former Indian Air Force Squadron Leader for allegedly moving funds for a former Congress MP for a land deal and amassing disproportionate assets worth Rs 40.36 lakh, officials said Monday.

Squadron Leader Polu Sreedhar, facing several health issues, was not given any respite by the court, which convicted him for amassing assets that could not satisfactorily be accounted for, they said.

The special court will start hearing arguments on the quantum of the sentence from January 2 next year, they said.

In its FIR, the CBI had alleged that from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2010, deposits worth Rs 11.9 crore were made in his three accounts in Axis Bank.

The money allegedly belonged to former Congress MP Balashowry Vallabbhaneni and was supposed to go towards a land deal worth Rs 12.5 crore.

The CBI registered the case on September 27, 2016, against Sreedhar, Balashowry, and bank manager Manish Saxena. The agency filed a charge sheet six years later, on November 24, 2022, against Sreedhar only as it could not find sufficient evidence against Vallabbhaneni and Saxena.

The agency reduced the quantum of illicit assets from Rs 11.9 crore to Rs 40 lakh in its charge sheet as it found that the former MP had purchased land with his own money using the accounts of Polu Sreedhar.

Polu Sreedhar during the trial claimed that the CBI did not consider his earnings from share trading, mutual funds, and commission earned from land deals.

Special Judge Ashwani Kumar held that Sreedhar "could not show" that the money was earned through share trading or land dealings as claimed by him, as well as he did not intimate about the unaccounted for money either to his own office or to the Income Tax Department.

The Judge said that the prosecution was able to prove beyond doubt that Sreedhar had "earned unaccounted money" to the tune of Rs 40 lakh.

"If the charge sheet is taken into consideration, then it reveals that the CBI is not concerned with the crores of rupees pertaining to Ex. MP Balashowry which were received in the three bank accounts of accused Polu Sreedhar and later on withdrawn, but is concerned with the excess amount of Rs. 40,36,560 only as shown in Statement 'B'," the Judge has noted.

The Judge observed that according to the charge sheet the lands were purchased by Balashowry "from his own money" and Saxena "simply opened the accounts" of Sreedhar in his bank, and "there was no evidence found that Mr. Balashowry or Mr. Manish Saxena abetted the offence" of alleged criminal misconduct under Section 13 (2) of the P C Act committed by the former Air Force officer.

"(A) Public servant is bound to disclose his assets and income as per service rules to his employer and cannot be allowed to convert black money of someone else into white through his own account.

"Presumption can be raised in view of the above facts and circumstances that the money lying in his account was either the part of ill-gotten money of Ex. MP Balaswory or was wrongfully earned specially when he is unable to account for the same by leading any evidence that it was earned through share or property dealing as well as the fact that he did not disclose about it to his employer and the income tax authorities," the court noted.

The court said that mere fact that the probe agency has not investigated the source from where this money came in the bank account of the accused itself does not discharge the onus lying upon the accused under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

"Mere fact that accused is not keeping good health and undergoing dialysis twice a week or is suffering some other medical problems itself is not a ground to acquit him," it said.