New Delhi: A Delhi court Monday granted bail to businessman Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, in the AgustaWestland money laundering case, while directing him not to “tamper with evidence” or “try to contact or influence the witnesses”.
Special judge Arvind Kumar granted bail to Puri and directed him to join the probe as and when called by the investigating officer.
Puri will, however, remain in jail as he was also arrested in another case – the one related to a bank fraud.
In the present VVIP chopper scam case, Puri was named as an accused in the sixth charge sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate.
While granting bail to Puri, the court said, “For the contention of the counsel for ED that accused may influence the witnesses is concerned, it is noted that supplementary complaint has been filed and statement of witnesses…has already been recorded. Necessary conditions can be put in this regard and any such effort by accused may lead to cancellation of his bail.”
The court noted that the “co-accused having similar or greater role than the role of present accused have already been enlarged on bail. Some of the co-accused have not been arrested by ED, at all, and complaint and supplementary complaints have been filed against these accused persons without arrest”.
Puri was not an accused in the CBI case registered for predicate offences, it noted.
“The present case is based, mainly, on documentary evidence and banking transactions. The premises of the accused was searched and the documents have already been seized by ED. Supplementary complaint against accused has already been filed,” the court said.
In its 20-page order, the court noted that the investigation by the ED was still going on and the agency had yet to receive documents through Letters Rogatory.
“Some of the LRs have been sent to different countries on November 21, 2019. The investigation will take time to complete. The accused is in custody in this case since September 4, 2019,” it noted.
While rejecting ED’s argument that the accused will abscond if granted bail, the court noted that he had roots in society and he was residing in Delhi along with his family members.
“Accused has three children and old age parents. The accused is having his business in India and is an income tax assessee. Therefore, the contention of ED that he may abscond does not appear to have much substance,” it said.
The judge granted him bail on a persona bond of Rs 5 lakh and two sureties of like amount, while directing him not to leave India without the permission of the court.
“The accused shall furnish his mobile numbers and e-mail IDs used by him to the investigating officer,” the court said.
Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa and advocate Vijay Agarwal, appearing for Puri, had told the court that the premises of the accused were searched by different agencies including ED and documents were seized and more than 7.5 TB data has also been copied by the ED.
“The ED has called the accused to join investigation and accused had joined investigation since February 7, 2019 on numerous occasions and it was only on September 5, 2019 that he was arrested by ED.
“The accused has joined investigation even before his arrest and also during police remand for 14 days and during his judicial custody. Documents have already been recovered,” he told the court.
Pahwa further submitted that the statements of the witnesses were was already filed with sixth supplementary complaint and it was not the ED’s case that further recoveries were to be made from accused.
“Even otherwise, it the accused, at any stage, is required for investigation, he can be called to join the probe,” he said.
According to the ED, the role of Puri was that his foreign entities received proceeds of crime directly from Interstellar Technologies Ltd, a co-accused in the case, and that he had received funds from both the chains of money laundering involved in the present matter.
“The accused, 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 accused amongst other,” agency’s special public prosecutor N K Matta said.
He added that the proceeds of crime has been deposited in the accounts of different companies owned by accused.
After the bail was granted, Agarwal said: “It was a case of arrest without complying with legal provisions. My client has nothing to do with Agusta. He is an entrepreneur involved in power generation and has got nothing to do with defence deals. So, it was obvious that ED’s case was not to withstand judicial scrutiny.”
In his bail plea, Puri had said that he was not required for further investigation and no purpose will be served by keeping him in custody.
The ED had filed the supplementary prosecution complaint (ED’s equivalent to a charge sheet) against Puri and Jaspreet Ahuja in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.
In January 2014, India had scrapped a contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary, AgustaWestland, for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force, over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of kickbacks worth Rs 423 crore being paid to secure the deal.