As the Delhi High Court rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in the Agusta-Westland chopper deal case Tuesday, saying that “custodial interrogation” was necessary, the Enforcement Directorate Monday night arrested him in a fresh case of money laundering linked to an alleged Rs 354-crore bank loan fraud.
A High Court single-judge bench of Justice Sunil Gaur modified its August 14 order where it had asked the ED not to take any “coercive steps” against Puri until August 20 in the AgustaWestland case.
On Tuesday, Justice Gaur said, “The application is dismissed,” adding that “this court is of the prima facie opinion that custodial interrogation of the petitioner is required for an effective investigation”.
The bench further observed that “granting of pre-arrest bail would stall effective investigation in the case”.
The bench also noted that “mere attachment of petitioner’s property in Income Tax proceedings would not justify grant of pre-arrest bail to the petitioner, who is not only evasive in his replies but is trying to influence the witness”. “It is so evident from the statement of the witnesses recorded by ED which has been provided to the court in the sealed cover,” stated Justice Gaur.
Puri had moved the HC after his application for anticipatory bail was dismissed by the Special Court on August 6. Subsequently, the special court on August 9 issued a non-bailable warrant against Puri after the ED alleged that he did not join the probe nor was he accessible on phone or at his residence.
Later Tuesday, Delhi Special Judge Sanjay Garg sent Puri to six days of ED custody, a day after he was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after the CBI filed a fresh criminal case against him and others last week.
Already booked in the AgustaWestland chopper deal case, the new case stems from an August 17 CBI FIR in which Puri, his father Deepak Puri, mother Nita (Nath’s sister) and others were booked in connection with a Rs 354-crore bank fraud case filed by the Central Bank of India. Since the FIR included scheduled offences under the PMLA, the ED took up investigation two days later.
The ED told the Delhi court that directors and promoters of M/s Moser Baer India Ltd including Puri had “forged and fabricated documents and induced Central Bank of India to release public funds”. According to court records, Puri was the firm’s promoter until 2012 and was its executive director. During the remand hearing, ED Special Public Prosecutor D P Singh sought 14 days custody, telling the court that when summons were issued to Puri to join the investigation, he tore the summons up following which they decided to arrest him.
Counsel for Puri, Vijay Aggarwal opposed the same and said that the arrest was illegal, and sought cancellation of the remand.
Hours after Puri’s arrest, MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath said he had no business links with Puri and said his arrest appears to have been prompted by ill will. “It is sad that agencies are being misused for political purposes,” he said, adding that he had full faith in the judiciary.
Seeking anticipatory bail from the HC in the AgustaWestland case, Puri argued that “parameters governing grant of pre-arrest bail are of abscondance, tampering with the evidence and non-cooperation, which are ex-facie not attracted to the instant case”.
The criminal role of Puri in the chopper case surfaced after the arrest of Dubai-based businessman Rajiv Saxena and alleged defence agent Sushen Mohan Gupta.
According to the ED, there is incriminating evidence against Puri, including Gupta’s diary and an email recovered from Saxena, which showed that Puri received the proceeds of the crime in the AgustaWestland deal.
There are around 42 individuals and firms, who have been made accused in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal case by the ED and the CBI, which the Centre scrapped after allegations of corruption and kickbacks emerged in the deal.
(With ENS Bhopal)