New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) Businessman Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minster Kamal Nath, is under the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) “close scanner” in connection with the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal as the “dragnet closes in”, agency sources said on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the ED informed a city court that Puri had been called for questioning and will be confronted with Sushen Mohan Gupta, an alleged defence agent arrested by the agency in March-end, in the money laundering case.
Puri is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hindustan Powerprojects, one of India’s leading integrated power players in the energy sector.
Special Judge Arvind Kumar allowed the agency to interrogate Gupta for three more days after the court was informed by the ED that he needed to be confronted with Puri who was summoned last week to join the investigation on Wednesday.
An ED official, requesting anonymity, told IANS that it was not clear if Puri had joined the probe on Wednesday but confirmed that he had been questioned several times in connection with the contract to supply 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force.
India on January 1, 2014 scrapped the deal with Italy-based Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland over an alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore for securing the deal.
“Ratul Puri was questioned on many occasions in AgustaWestland case for routing the kickbacks. This time, he will be confronted with Sushen Mohan Gupta,” said the official.
Asked whether Puri can be arrested, the official said: “We have evidences against him which are to be corroborated. Puri’s arrest depends on what investigators find during his confrontation with Gupta. If things go against Puri, he may be arrested this week.”
Puri’s questioning along with Gupta, who was arrested by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), came after disclosures by lobbyist Rajiv Saxena.
Saxena has turned approver in the case after he was deported from the United Arab Emirates and arrested by the agency here.
Saxena has shared information about Puri with the ED which the agency wants to establish by confronting Gupta, who is suspected of possessing some payment details in the purchase of the choppers.
The ED is probing the case to establish suspected bribes allegedly paid to the “middlemen” when India agreed to purchase the VVIP helicopters.
In December last year, Dubai-based businessman Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in the deal, was extradited to India and lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has alleged there was an estimated loss of euro 398.21 million (Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth euro 556.262 million.
The ED, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, alleged that he received euro 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.
“The money was nothing but kickbacks,” the charge sheet said.
The ED investigation found that remittances made by Michel through his Dubai-based firm Global Services to a media firm he floated in Delhi, along with two Indians, were made from the funds which he got from AgustaWestland through “criminal activity” and corruption in the chopper deal that led to the subsequent generation of proceeds of crime.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])