A court on Monday dismissed the bail plea of businessman Gautam Khaitan, arrested in a money laundering case related to the AgustaWestland chopper deal. Special judge V K Gupta denied bail to Khaitan who is in judicial custody.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), while opposing the bail plea, had last Wednesday informed the court that he did not join the trial in Italy and the arrest warrants were still pending against him in an Italian court.
The ED statement came after Khaitan had moved a fresh bail plea, citing an Italian court acquitting two foreigners of graft charges. Khaitan told the court that in a similar case, the Italian court passed a verdict exonerating two foreign nationals accused of bribery and corruption in India and in this view, the ED’s allegation that he had received kickbacks now stands ‘eroded’.
The investigating agency countered it and said that an Aug 5 order of the Italian court shows that Khaitan was involved in money laundering as the court there has mentioned about the illegal acts.
The Italian court Oct 9 acquitted former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini of corruption charges in the chopper deal with India. They were, however, sentenced to a two-year jail term on lesser charges of falsification of invoices.
Khaitan, who was on the board of the Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix, was arrested a day after the agency conducted a search of his premises Sep 22. The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from British firm AgustaWestland came under scrutiny after Italian authorities alleged that the company paid a bribe to clinch the deal with India, inked in February 2010. India Jan 1 terminated the Rs.3,600 crore (about $770 million) deal with AgustaWestland for the purchase of the choppers following allegations of kickbacks having been paid to fix the deal. India had paid around 45 percent of the total contract value for the choppers meant to ferry the president, the prime minister and other VIPs.
The ED had registered a case in this deal in July 2013 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and booked former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, foreign nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, companies like AgustaWestland, its parent company Italy-based Finmeccanica, Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix as well as two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, a few other firms and unidentified people in its criminal complaint. The ED named 21 entities in the case. The Central Bureau of Investigation lodged a separate case in March 2013 against Tyagi and others in connection with the kickback allegations.