Ratul Puri, the nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, is threatening witnesses in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam related money laundering case, the Enforcement Directorate told a Delhi court on Wednesday.
Seeking his custodial interrogation, the ED made the claims before special judge Arvind Kumar during the hearing of anticipatory bail application filed by Puri. The court extended Puri's interim protection from arrest till Thursday after the arguments on the application remained inconclusive.
"Puri is threatening the witnesses. People are scared of him. There are various witnesses who allege Puri is pressurising them," the agency told the court. It claimed the investigating officer has received certain complaints from the witnesses that they were threatened by Puri.
"Even in the last few days while he was being protected from arrest by the court order, he has been non-cooperative. He had not answered anything while he appeared before ED," the agency said, adding Puri has stopped the communication since last two days. It added that Puri was in constant touch with other accused persons in the case.
The agency submitted that Puri was an influential man and if granted bail, he might tamper with the evidence and influence witnesses in the case.
In his anticipatory bail application, Puri claimed that he was co-operating in the investigation and the agency wanted to arrest him due to "political vendetta", an alligation denied by the ED. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Puri, told the court that there was no material to show that his client was tampering with evidence and he has not figured in any charge sheet till date.
Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, also appearing for Puri, said Puri has been questioned for almost 200 hours and yet the agency has not recovered any incriminating material against him. ED has earlier alleged that the probe has thrown light on his culpability in the case and his concerned foreign entities, in which proceeds of crime (money generated through crime) were received directly from Interstellar Technologies (a co-accused in the case).
"Investigation has revealed that Ratul Puri received funds from both the chains of money laundering involved," it had said. According to the ED, while one chain involved middleman Christian Michel James, the other belonged to Rajeev Saxena, a co-accused who recently turned approver in the case.
"Investigation 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 himself," it said. 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.
The court on Saturday granted him interim protection till Monday, which has been extended since then. Puri recently appeared before ED for questioning in the case pertaining to the now-scrapped Rs 3,600 crore chopper deal with AgustaWestland.