The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday made its first arrest in the money laundering probe in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, taking into custody Gautam Khaitan, a former board member of an accused company, Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix.
The agency, which is trying to track alleged kickbacks of Rs 360 crore from the deal, arrested Khaitan, a businessman and an advocate, after searches were conducted at two of his premises here on Monday.
“Khaitan has been arrested under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He is required for further detailed interrogation in the case,” ED sources said.
The agency, after searches, seized jewellery worth Rs 1 crore and impounded some ‘important’ financial documents from his premises.
This is the first big action by the ED in this case after it registered an FIR in the deal in July against Khaitan, former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief SP Tyagi and 19 others in the VVIP chopper deal to probe the alleged kickbacks.
Khaitan was on the board of Aeromatrix, which is allegedly a front company for financial dealings of the chopper deal.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and other agencies, they had detected that funds for the particular deal were allegedly routed through this firm and a few others.
A reference to Khaitan was also reportedly made in the Italian prosecutor’s report filed in a court in Italy.
Khaitan, however, has refuted all allegations against him. He had earlier been quizzed by the CBI in this case. The ED had registered a case in this deal under the PMLA, taking cognisance of a more-than-a-year-old CBI FIR.
The ED has booked Tyagi, his family members, European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, four companies -- 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 unknown persons in its criminal complaint.
A total of 21 entities have been named by the ED in the case.
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 chief executive officer (CEO) of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, had used the services of middlemen to bribe Indian officials.