The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) plea to set aside the bail granted to businessman and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri in a money laundering case connected to the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.
Justice Suresh Kait said bail once granted ought not to be cancelled in a mechanical manner and it has to be established that the relief was being misused or that it was not in the interest of justice to allow the accused to remain out.
“However, all those facts are missing in the present case,” the court said, adding no ground was made out in the petition to interfere with the bail granted to Puri by a special court on December 2, 2019.
The court noted that in the instant case, among the 46 accused, 25 were in different countries, four on bail after being arrested and only one — Christian Michel James — who was extradited from abroad was in custody.
It also noted that investigation in the case had started in 2014 and after lapse of more than five years, the probe was still going on and “may continue for further substantial years”.
Besides, Puri underwent around 100 days in judicial custody and was “interrogated substantially” during that period and while in ED remand.
“In view of the facts and circumstances of the present case and the law discussed above, I am of the view that there is no ground made in the present petition to interfere with the impugned order December 2, 2019 whereby special judge has granted bail to the respondent (Puri). The petition is accordingly dismissed,” the high court said.
While granting him relief, the trial court had directed Puri, who was in ED custody since September 4, 2019, not to “tamper with evidence” or “try to contact or influence the witnesses”.
In the present VVIP chopper scam case, Puri was named as an accused in the sixth charge sheet filed by the ED.
The trial court had noted that the “co-accused having similar or greater role than the role of the present accused have already been enlarged on bail”.
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 ED had filed the supplementary prosecution complaint (ED’s equivalent to a charge sheet) against Puri and co-accused 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.