Chopper deal case: Delhi court asks ED to respond to plea by accused

A Delhi court on Monday asked the Enforcement Directorate to respond to a plea of a businessman charged with money laundering in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal seeking bail on the ground that an Italian court has acquitted two foreigners of graft charges.

PTI| Last Updated: Oct 13, 2014, 21:23 PM IST

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Monday asked the Enforcement Directorate to respond to a plea of a businessman charged with money laundering in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal seeking bail on the ground that an Italian court has acquitted two foreigners of graft charges.

 

The plea seeking bail and permission to place some fresh facts relating to Italian court's order and documents was filed by Gautam Khaitan, who has been arrested by ED in the money laundering case.

Khaitan, in his fresh plea, submitted that in a similar case, the Italian court has passed a verdict exonerating two foreign nationals accused of charges of bribery and corruption in India and in this view, the ED's allegation that he had received kickbacks now stands "eroded".

Advocate Vikas Garg, appearing for ED, told special CBI judge V K Gupta that he would file the reply within two days.

The court, which was scheduled to pass order today on the bail plea of Khaitan, fixed the matter for October 15.

In his plea, Khaitan said these fresh facts assume significance as the entire emphasis of ED was that Khaitan had facilitated the kickbacks.

"In the above circumstances, even the prima facie case of the matter pending in Italian court, is no more there. Rather, the accused are exonerated of the said offence by the Italian court. Therefore, no prima facie case exists against the applicant and the applicant should be granted bail," it said.

The Italian court on October 9 acquitted former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini of corruption charges in the chopper deal with India.

They, however, were sentenced to two-year jail term on lesser charges of falsification of invoices.

ED had earlier opposed Khaitan's bail plea alleging that he was involved in the transfer of "tainted money". It had argued that Khaitan was "actively involved" in the illegal transactions relating to proceeds of crime and he was one of the beneficiaries of the entire deal.

ED had alleged that the agency was probing the case in which 70 million Euros were paid as "kickbacks" and it was investigating the money trail and also the proceeds of crime.

Khaitan's counsel had sought bail contending that he was a "soft target" and influential persons, who are also accused in the case, were not yet arrested by ED.

ED had earlier submitted that Khaitan was on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix which was allegedly a front firm for the financial dealings in the chopper deal.

Khaitan was arrested by ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). ED had lodged a case in July against Khaitan, former IAF chief S P Tyagi and 19 others in the VVIP chopper deal case to probe alleged kickbacks.

ED had earlier said Khaitan was one of the directors in Aeromatrix and he had resigned from the post after the Italian police started its probe into the chopper deal.

It had said a reference to Khaitan was also reportedly made in Italian prosecutor's report filed in a court there.

He was earlier questioned by CBI in this case. ED had registered a case in this deal under PMLA, taking cognisance of a more-than-a-year-old CBI FIR.

ED has booked SP Tyagi, his family members, European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, four firms--Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix, two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, a few other firms and unnamed persons in its criminal complaint.

The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland came under the scanner after the Italian authorities alleged that bribe was paid by the company to clinch the deal.

The Italian prosecutor, who carried out the preliminary inquiry, alleged that the CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent company of UK-based AgustaWestland, had used the services of middlemen to bribe Indian officials.