The Enforcement Directorate told a Delhi court Thursday that if not arrested, Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, may compromise investigation in the AgustaWestland chopper scam.
While seeking non-bailable warrant (NBW) against Puri, ED told special judge Arvind Kumar that the evidence was being tampered in the money laundering case related to now scrapped Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland. The agency further said that there were chances that Puri may flee from justice.
"Tampering of evidence going on. He is also a flight risk. Though there is LOC (Look Out Circular) issued against him (Puri), he may flee from Nepal and using other modes, since nothing seems impossible for these rich men... We are facing a lot of difficulty and the probe is likely to be compromised," the ageny told the court.
"Flight risk" is used to determine whether or not a person being accused of a crime in a court case would consider running away or flying to another country in order to avoid being found guilty and going to prison. The court has reserved its order on ED's application for Friday.
Puri's advocate Vijay Aggarwal opposed ED's application, while urging the court to hear his submissions before passing any order on the agency's plea.
The court said it will decide on Friday whether to hear defence counsel in the matter.
The submissions were made days after Puri failed to get relief from the Delhi High Court and the trial court on August 6, paving the way for ED to arrest him.
The High Court had dismissed his petition seeking a direction to the trial court not to pronounce order on his anticipatory bail plea without hearing his other pending applications.
Hours later, the trial court dismissed his anticipatory bail plea, noting that the probe was at a crucial stage. The agency Wednesday moved the court seeking NBW, alleging that Puri was non-cooperative and untraceable.
It said Puri was directed to join the investigation on Tuesday but he failed to turn up before the agency. "The probe agency has the rights which are being violated. This man (Puri) slipped from my (ED) office. He also blatantly non-cooperated after an interim order was granted by this court. He stopped coming before the ED," the agency said.
Puri had approached the trial court on July 27 seeking anticipatory bail in the matter, seeking protection from arrest. The court on July 27 granted him interim protection from arrest till July 29, which was later extended from time to time until his application got dismissed on August 6. Puri earlier appeared before the ED for questioning in the case. The agency has been seeking the businessman's custody to further investigate the matter.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in the 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.
It said the investigation showed his foreign entities received proceeds of crime directly from Interstellar Technologies Limited, an accused comapny, and he had received funds from both the chains of money laundering involved in the matter.
It said the probe has further revealed that the applicant, using 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. The agency also claimed that Puri has also received proceeds of crime from channel of another alleged middleman Christian Michel James.