AgustaWestland case: Court dismisses Ratul Puri's anticipatory bail plea, says probe at crucial stage

The chopper deal with AgustaWestland was scrapped by the NDA government in 2014 over the alleged breach of contractual obligations.

Published: 06th August 2019 07:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th August 2019 07:35 PM   |  A+A-

Ratul Puri (Photo | ANI/Twitter)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: A Delhi Court Tuesday dismissed the anticipatory bail plea of Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in a money laundering case related to the AgustaWestland chopper scam noting that the investigation is at a crucial stage, paving the way for his arrest.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar also junked two separate applications filed by Puri seeking a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and a statement recorded under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

"Keeping in view the fact that investigation, in matter in hand, is at a crucial stage especially as regard role played by accused/applicant Ratul Puri coupled with evidence collected so far by ED and considering serious nature of allegations, gravity of offence and alleged conduct of accused, I do not consider it to be fit case for grant of anticipatory bail.

The application for anticipatory bail is therefore dismissed," the judge said.

On the issue of ECIR, the court said that it is simply an information regarding registration of predicate offence and start of investigation by Enforcement Directorate (ED) and in the present case, a complaint and four supplementary complaints have already been filed.

"Charge sheet has been filed in predicate offence. Under the facts and circumstances it cannot be said that any prejudice has been caused to accused because of non supply of ECIR and further it shall hardly have any bearing on the decision of the present anticipatory bail application," the court said.

The court also noted that arguments on bail application of the accused has continued for about 5 days before and counsel for accused had inspected the judicial record and ECIR is already on judicial record.

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On the issue of providing statement recorded under Section 50 of the PMLA, the court said that counsel for ED submitted that Puri's statement is a part of case file and is not liable to be supplied.

"Since the investigation about the role of the accused Ratul Puri for the commission of offence under PML Act, 2002 is still going on, so no such direction for supply of statement U/S 50 PMLA are warranted, at this stage of the matter," the court said.

It also rejected the submission by Puri's counsel that the offence under PMLA is cognizable or not, is yet to be decided by the higher courts, hence, the provisions should be construed in favour of accused.

The court said that recent amendments to the PMLA, 2002 have clarified that the expression "offences to be cognizable and non-bailable shall mean and shall be deemed to have always meant that all offences under this Act shall be cognizable offences and non-bailable offences notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Hence, contention of counsel for accused is liable to be rejected".

Puri, chairman of Hindustan Powerprojects Pvt Ltd, had on July 27 approached the court seeking anticipatory bail in the case, saying he feared arrest in the case.

He recently appeared before the Enforcement Directorate for questioning in the case pertaining to the now scrapped Rs 3,600 crore chopper deal with AgustaWestland.

The ED has been seeking the businessman's custody to further investigate the matter.

The agency's counsel had earlier contended before the trial court that Puri was an influential person and might flee the country.

The case pertains to alleged irregularities in purchase of 12 VVIP choppers from Italy-based Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland.

The deal was scrapped by the NDA government in 2014 over the alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of payment of kickbacks for securing the deal.

According to the ED, Puri's role surfaced after deportation of another AgustaWestland case accused Rajeev Saxena on January 31 from UAE and the arrest of Sushen Mohan Gupta, an alleged defence agent.

The agency said that the investigation has shown that his concerned foreign entities, received proceeds of crime directly from Interstellar Technologies Limited and he had received funds from both the chains of money laundering involved in the present matter.

It said that probe has further revealed that the applicant, using the guise of shell companies in the name of others, accumulated proceeds of crime, which have been parked and later laundered to reach the desired beneficiaries including the applicant amongst other.

As per ED, the proceeds of crime have been deposited in the accounts of different companies owned by the accused and he is a key link to unearth the modus operandi adopted by other accused persons and to determine last mile connectivity of the proceeds of crime in the case.

It said various incriminating material evidences have come on record to show the complicity of Puri and the diary of Gupta and emails recovered from Saxena shows that applicant was in receipt of proceeds of crime.

The agency also claimed that Puri has also received proceeds of crime from channel of another alleged middleman Christian Michel James.

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