Kamal Nath’s nephew sent to 6-day ED custody
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday arrested Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri, a former executive director of Moser Baer, in connection with a R354-crore bank fraud case.
A Delhi court later sent Puri to six-day custodial interrogation of ED in connection with the fraud case filed by the Central Bank of India. His arrest came after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday searched six locations, including Moser Baer’s office at Okhla Industrial Area and the residences of its directors, according to an official.
ED took the action after lodging a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Puri and others on Monday night based on CBI’s FIR. While ED sought a 14-day remand of Puri, special judge Sanjay Garg granted six days’ custody to the agency on Tuesday.
Moser Baer was taking loans from various banks since 2009 and went for debt restructuring a number of times, the bank alleged. When it was unable to repay the debt, a forensic audit was done and the account was declared as “fraud”, according to the FIR. It said the funds released by the bank were misused by Moser Bar and its directors for personal use and other unsanctioned purposes.
Besides Puri, CBI has also booked Deepak Puri, his father and chairman and managing director of the company, along with directors Nita Puri (Ratul’s mother), Sanjay Jain and Vineet Sharma for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery.
ED said it took Puri into custody at 11.58pm on August 19 “due to his total non-cooperation”. It said his custodial interrogation was required to ascertain all known and unknown accounts in which he had beneficial interest. The agency said it needed to ascertain the end use of such funds, and the role of the people who facilitated money-laundering.
Puri’s counsel, advocate Vijay Aggarwal, said that his client had gone to ED office to join investigations in the AgustaWestland chopper scam case but he was illegally arrested by officials in the Central Bank of India case. “The lawyer’s assistance during interrogation has been permitted by the court and despite ED seeking 14 days’ police custody, only six days have been granted,” said Aggarwal.
His name surfaced in the AgustaWestland case after a diary recovered from alleged defence agent Sushen Mohan Gupta indicated his links, ED said. It showed that Puri was in receipt of the proceeds of the crime, the agency said.
In I-T raids in April, tax officials found a diary that said payments were made to various Congress leaders with the involvement of Ratul Puri, officials said. They said money was illegally diverted to several places across the country, including to Bhopal, where his uncle Kamal Nath is the chief minister. They also said a part of the cash was transferred to the headquarters of a major political party in Delhi including about R20 crore that was moved through hawala from the residence of a senior functionary at Tughlak Road, New Delhi.
The Delhi high court, also on Tuesday, dismissed an anticipatory bail plea of Puri in a money-laundering case related to the AgustaWestland chopper scam, saying his custodial interrogation was “required for an effective investigation”. Justice Sunil Gaur said that Puri was evasive in his replies during questioning by the probe agency, ED, and it was evident from witness statements provided to the court that he was trying to influence them. He had moved the high court on August 13 after the trial court issued a non-bailable warrant against him on August 9.
A spokesperson from Moser Baer said on Tuesday that Puri’s arrest reflected motivated behaviour of investigating agencies. “The case filed against him while NCLT [National Company Law Tribunal] process has been completed reflects unconstitutional behavior. All necessary diligence was carried under Restructuring Professional (RP) post which NCLT proceeding were carried out.”
Two government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said earlier this year that the income tax department had sufficient evidence to prosecute a Delhi-based power company promoted by Puri for tax evasion and money-laundering to the tune of R1,350 crore.
Kamal Nath on Tuesday dubbed the arrest of his nephew as “action with malicious intention”, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said ED’s move was based on its investigation.
(With inputs from agencies)