ED gets two-day custody of AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case accused Gautam Khaitan in fresh money laundering case
During the court proceedings, the ED’s special public prosecutors D P Singh and N K Matta maintained that the present case had nothing to do with the alleged AgustaWestland scam.Updated: Jan 26, 2019 19:58 IST
A Delhi court on Saturday remanded lawyer Gautam Khaitan, an accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case to the Enforcement Directorrate’s custody for two days in a different case involving possession of black money and money laundering.
During the court proceedings, ED’s special public prosecutors D P Singh and N K Matta maintained that the present case had nothing to do with the AgustaWestland case where air force officials, middlemen and others are alleged to have conspired to ensure an Air Force deal for helicopters meant for VVIPs was closed in favour of Finmeccanica, the Italian firm that makes the choppers .
Metropolitan Magistrate Neetu Sharma sent the accused to custody after the Enforcement Directorte (ED) alleged that he is operating and holding a number of foreign bank accounts illegally.
Khaitan’s advocate P K Dubey opposed the ED’s submissions and accused the agency of forging documents; he also insisted the present case is related to the AgustaWestland one in which Khaitan is already being prosecuted and out on bail.
He said that the case number of the present case is that of the AgustaWestland case.
The fresh criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Aact was filed by ED against Khaitan on the basis of a case filed by the Income Tax Department against him under Section 51 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.
ED sought seven days’ custody of the accused, claiming it has knowledge of unidentified assets with the accused that amount to at least Rs 500 crore.
“Custody is not being sought in relation to (an) account which (we) came across in AgustaWestland (case). He runs less of a law firm and more of a money laundering (operation). “IT department has given figures which we have to verify. He didn’t help in verifying them,” the agency said, adding that Khaitan’s custody is required to “unearth the conspiracy”.
“This case has nothing to do with AgustaWestland. Custodial interrogation is a must to reach the truth,” it added.
The defence counsel opposed the ED plea saying the IT department is already probing the matter.
Through his lawyer, Khaitan said that he “went out of the country” with the permission of the “court hearing AgustaWestland case”. He claimed that when he “landed in India” he was “ detained by IT department and later arrested by the ED”.
“First IT raided my (Khaitan) premises, the moment they left, ED entered the premises and detained me. There was no apprehension that I was fleeing.... Can I be prosecuted by multiple agencies for the same offence?” Khaitan asked through Dubey, insisting that this case is related to the Agusta Westland one. Khaitan was placed under arrest on Friday night by the agency.
The Income Tax Department last week carried out searches against Khaitan in the new case filed under the anti-black money law.
Khaitan was arrested by ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation a few years ago in connection with their probe in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland case.
A charge sheet was also filed against him by the two agencies and he is currently out on bail.