Chandigarh-based businessman and lawyer Gautam Khaitan has asked a Delhi court to grant him bail on the grounds that in parallel proceedings in an Italian court, two accused had been acquitted of corruption charges related to the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal.
The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) judge has taken on record Khaitan’s application filed through his advocate PK Dubey and asked Enforcement Directorate and its counsel to respond by October 15. Khaitan, in his fresh plea, submitted that in a similar case, the Italian court has absolved two foreign nationals of bribery and corruption in India; and in this view, the ED allegation that he had received kickbacks now stood “eroded”.
Khaitan submitted that these fresh facts assumed significance, as the entire the ED case rested on the argument that he had facilitated the kickbacks. “The accused are exonerated of the said offence by the Italian court. Therefore, no prima facie case exists against the applicant and he should be granted bail,” Khaitan’s application stated.
On October 9, the Italian court had acquitted former Finmeccanica CEO (chief executive officer) Giuseppe Orsi and former 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.
The ED had earlier opposed the bail petition of Khaitan, alleging that he was involved in the transfer of “tainted money” and illegal transactions relating to the proceeds of the crime; and besides was one of the beneficiaries of the entire deal.
The ED has named SP Tyagi and members of his family; Europeans Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke; four firms (Italy’s Finmeccanica, UK’s AgustaWestland, and Chandigarh’s IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix); two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia; a few other concerns; and some unnamed people in its criminal complaint.
The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland came under the scanner after the Italian authorities alleged that the company had paid bribe to clinch the deal. The Italian prosecutor who carried out the preliminary inquiry alleged that the CEO of Finmeccanica, parent company of UK-based AgustaWestland, had hired middlemen to bribe Indian officials.