Ratul Puri rejects ED claim that he likely killed Agusta witness
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday claimed in a special court that a witness who is missing in the case of alleged irregularities in the ~3,600 crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal may have been killed by Ratul Puri, a suspect in the case and nephew of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath.
The court did not make any observations on the allegation but offered Puri interim protection against arrest until Wednesday, extending an order it issued on Saturday.
The Enforcement Directorate, which investigates cases of money laundering and foreign exchange rule violations, made its submission while arguing against an anticipatory bail plea moved by Puri, who is being probed for his role in the AgustaWestland deal.
ED’s counsel, DP Singh, said, “The man is so influential that he is not only at flight risk, but we fear that one witness might have been killed.”
“...His family(that of the allegedly murdered witness) is so shocked that they are scared of filing an FIR [first information report].”
The reference was to a Delhi-based witness, KK Khosla, who recorded a statement before income tax authorities four months ago. Singh said Khosla subsequently retracted his statement and has been missing for the past four months. “We reached his (witness) family about his whereabouts. They said they do not know...,” he said.
Responding to the ED’s allegations, Puri’s counsel, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, told HT ,“We will be filing a proper reply (to ED arguments) day after tomorrow. I am surprised that allegations are made on suppositions. Last I heard, there was not even an FIR by anyone regarding murder. Yet the counsel for prosecution, who is supposed to be responsible, is making wild allegations of liquidation.”
ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation are probing allegations of corruption and money laundering in a contract for the purchase of 12 luxury VVIP helicopters for use by top leaders, including the President, Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers. The deal was cancelled on January 1, 2014 over the allegations of wrongdoing.
Accusing Puri of money laundering, ED said on Tuesday Puri had received more than $1 million from British middleman Christian Michel, also an accused in the chopper case.
Alleging political vendetta, Singhvi told the court that Puri was being targeted because “he happens to be related to someone in Madhya Pradesh.”
Puri’s company, Hindustan Power Project Private Ltd, released a statement on Tuesday evening.
“The Group confirms to the highest standard of ethics and governance and categorically denies any involvement in AgustaWestland Helicopter or any defence deal. The promoter and the company is fully cooperating and will continue to cooperate with the Enforcement Directorate and has provided all the information requested. All claims regarding his involvement is false and incorrect...”