New Delhi | Updated: November 18, 2020 9:56:40 am
Chartered accountant Rajiv Saxena, key accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, has told the Enforcement Directorate (ED) about the entities and investments through which part of the alleged kickbacks were routed, and that these also involved defence dealer Sushen Mohan Gupta and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri.
Currently on bail, Saxena was extradited from Dubai in January 2019 and was interrogated by the ED which attached his assets worth Rs 385 crore. The ED has now filed an appeal in a bid to divest Saxena of his approver status for allegedly not fully disclosing the facts of the case.
His statement, running over 1000 pages (including supporting documents), show him claiming that his role was “limited to the structures and managing the execution” for key players like Sushen Mohan Gupta, Ratul Puri and Gautam Khaitan.
But information received via Letters Rogatory from Italy and Mauritius show that four of Saxena’s companies also received payments to the tune of $0.94 million from alleged middleman Christian Michael’s company Global Services – extradited to India in December 2018, Michel remains in jail – and that in June 2000, Saxena himself acquired 99.9% shareholding of Interstellar Technologies.
Confronted with documents that the ED received from Mauritius, Saxena claimed they were “clever forgeries” but went on to admit that he himself was a partner in investment deals through which the alleged payoffs were routed.
In the case of Sushen Mohan Gupta, Saxena told the ED that he made investments in two companies, DM Power and DM South India Hospitality.
“As regards the investment made by Matrix Group Limited (Saxena’s company), through its fully owned subsidy Rigel Power Limited into Optima Infrastructure P Ltd in India, I can confirm that funds received directly or indirectly from Interstellar Technologies Limited and Global services FZC have flowed into this investment… a part of this investment was arranged by him (Ratul Puri) from remittances from Global Services FZC which I was unaware at that time had received funds from AgustaWestland,” Saxena told the ED.
The “investments” that Saxena detailed involved both Gupta and Puri and he described them during his interrogation on October 9, 2019. He said the three of them discussed “various business propositions” including one on trade in solar panels for projects of Moser Power wherein they were to act as “intermediary’’ between Moser Power and the suppliers. Saxena provided the ED a flow chart, showing his company Midas Metals Int Ltd acted as the intermediary entity.
The second joint venture Saxena admitted to was to “structure” an investment in Puri’s company, Optima Infrastructure Ltd, which was making an investment in a hydro power project.
“He (Ratul Puri) proposed we set up a special purpose vehicle in Mauritius (a company called Rigel Power Limited, based in Mauritius) to invest in his company Optima Infrastructure which was the vehicle investing in his downstream Hydro Power project. The total investment was estimated at $50 million, of which we were to put in $5 million. Mr Puri mentioned that he would be seeking to attract private equity investment for the sum of $50 million for which he was in discussions with major international institutions… the total value of the trade deals between Moser Power and Midas Metals over a period of two to six years would have been around $240 million,” Saxena told the ED.
He said “our” fee for the deal was to be in the range of $1 million but subsequently Moser Power failed to get the proposed investments, and payments to suppliers in China slipped into default.
“As this default was not due to any act of ours, Moser Baer agreed to bridge the gaps in the funding to enable Midas Metals to complete their payment obligations… payments were organized by the finance team of Moser Power and we were informed that we would receive funds from different companies but not from their account which may be from hawala operators to clear the liabilities. Till date, due to funds diverted for the investment in Rigel, we have an uncovered liability in excess of $21 million,” he said.
To partially cover the deficit, an agreement was signed in October 2014 by which financial assets of Ratul Puri’s company, Equinox Ocean Holdings Limited, would be transferred to the Matrix Group.
Responding to questions from ED officials on whether any large remittances were received for his business with Moser Power or Optima Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, Saxena said “from time to time” they received money from an offshore company called Pristine River. This is the company Saxena claimed was “managed” for Bakul Nath, Kamal Nath’s son.
Incidentally, in the 62 pages of accounts of Ratul Puri given to ED, there are four round figure payments made in 2014 — totalling $20 million –and transferred into Pristine River with the name Nitin Bhatnagar written against them.
Bhatnagar was also questioned by the ED in New Delhi in early 2020. He was described by Saxena as someone introduced to him by Ratul Puri in 2013. According to Saxena, at that time Bhatnagar was the Managing Director of Bank J Safra Sarasin in Dubai but later set up his own real estate company. “Prior to this, Nitin Bhatnagar was the relationship manager of Pristine River Investments Ltd with the Bank of Singapore” Saxena told the ED.
Providing more information on the rotation of funds for his clients, Saxena said even between 2011 and 2012, approximately $18 million had been paid to Pristine River but “these funds came back to us amounting to approximately $18 million which was once again paid back to them later through Vera Development and Maceal Investments.”
He also told ED that the Monetary Authority of Singapore had raised “queries” about the source of funds for payments to Pristine River. During questioning, Saxena maintained he was unaware that there was a “trust structure” behind Pristine River until he was confronted with documents by the ED last year.
Reached for comments, Nitin Bhatnagar said: “The questions raised and answers sought are designed to prejudice and influence an on-going investigation. I have fully participated and cooperated in the investigation. I was only a manager in the Bank of Singapore and have been based in Dubai for last over 18 years. I have nothing to do at all with the AgustaWestland case or any of the accused. Information sought from me has been given to the investigating agencies and am advised not to interact with the media since media reportage of an on-going investigation would clearly amount to interference in the administration of justice.”
Ratul Puri, through his lawyer Naveen Kapila, said: “You are hereby informed that the entire email sent by you pertains to Sh Rajiv Saxena… though he was earlier declared an Approver, but the ED has itself filed an Application before the Ld Special Judge, seeking cancellation of his approvership, clearly showing that the ED itself does not trust Sh Rajiv Saxena. In such a complex fact situation, levelling any allegations by relying upon him or in the context in which it was depicted to be reported, shall amount to misreporting and spreading falsehood.”
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