The Delhi High Court Thursday sought response of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a plea moved by lawyer Gautam Khaitan to set aside a trial court order summoning him as an accused in a money laundering case related to the VVIP chopper scam. A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel issued notice to ED and sought its stand on the petition which also sought quashing of the money laundering complaint against Khaitan as well as the third supplementary charge sheet, or prosecution complaint, filed by the agency in the case.
Khaitan, represented by senior advocate Siddharth Luthra and advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey, has also sought a declaration from the court on whether the offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) are cognizable or non-cognizable. A cognizable offence is one for which a person can be arrested by a police officer without needing a warrant.
A non-cognizable offence is one for which a police officer requires a warrant to make an arrest. Apart from Khaitan, the trial court on July 24 had summoned as accused former AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica directors Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, ex-Indian Air Force (IAF) chief S P Tyagi as well as 28 Indian and foreign individuals and companies, including AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica SPA.
The special court had passed the direction after taking cognisance of the charge sheet, saying there was enough evidence against the accused in the matter relating to the alleged money laundering to the tune of around Euro 28 million. It had also issued fresh non-bailable warrants against Italian middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke and Dubai-based businessman Rajeev Saxena in the case.
The ED, in its charge sheet, has alleged that money was laundered through multiple foreign companies which were used as fronts to park alleged kickbacks. The agency said that it may file more supplementary charge sheets in the matter. On January 1, 2014, India had scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of kickbacks of Rs 423 crore paid by it to secure the deal. Those summoned by the court include Tyagi and his cousins, Khaitan and his wife Ritu, Rajeev Saxena and his wife Shivani, both directors of two Dubai-based accused firms UHY Saxena and Matrix Holdings, O P Khaitan and Co, International Mediterranean Consulting, Tunisia and Infotech Design Systems Gordian Services.
“Khaitan, the mastermind behind laundering the proceeds of crime in the present case, was known to Gerosa, Haschke and Tyagi brothers. He prepared a corporate structure of companies and got incorporated several legal entities across the globe. “Thereafter, the proceeds of crime were laundered through various companies in Tunisia, Mauritius, India, Singapore, Switzerland, Dubai etc.,” the charge sheet has said.
It further alleged that Khaitan also received proceeds of crime in personal bank accounts opened in his name and the accounts of his companies in India and abroad, Windsor Holding Group Ltd, Ismax International Ltd and O P Khaitan & Co. The ED had earlier attached properties worth Rs 10 crore and freezed shares worth more than Rs 150 crore belonging to Tyagi Brothers, Gautam Khaitan, Gerosa, Haschke, Christian Michel James and Rajiv Saxena.