The Enforcement Directorate told a Delhi court Tuesday that they “believe” a witness in the AgustaWestland case “must have been killed” as he has been missing for the past four months. The ED’s statement was made while opposing the anticipatory bail of Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
Puri is under the scanner for allegedly receiving kickbacks in the AgustaWestland deal through his companies. His interim protection from arrest will now continue until Wednesday as hearing on his anticipatory bail could not be completed. The ED has also levelled allegations against Puri claiming that he received “proceeds of crime” from AgustaWestland middleman, Christian Michel.
ED Special Public Prosecutor D P Singh told the court that Puri was an influential person who posed a flight risk, could tamper with evidence and influence witnesses. He said: “One witness, we believe, must have been killed. We cannot reach him. His whole family is in shock. They are so scared that they have not filed an FIR.”
The ED disclosed the witness’s identity as K K Khosla and told Special Judge Arvind Kumar, that the witness is a 73-year-old, who had retracted his statement and has been missing for the past four months.
ED sources said Khosla worked for Puri and was involved in a “range of activities”. He had even recorded a statement with the agency where he had given details of some financial transactions, sources said.
“He did not destroy some documents. They were fearing him because of that and he has not been found. What has happened to him I do not know. We also have a genuine apprehension that he has been made to flee not to return. It was recently in May when the IT department conducted search and seizures that he retracted his statement and has gone underground,” Singh told the court.
Singh also told the court that the ED has traced “one million dollars transaction from Christian Michel’s company to Puri”.
Appearing for Puri, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that the ED’s stand was “unfair as, after 25 meetings with Puri for a minimum of 200 hours of questioning in the past four months, they still land up at his house and call him an absconder”. He said ED’s replies were like “Alice in wonderland. It keeps getting curiouser and curiouser”.
Singhvi also claimed that the ED’s investigation was politically motivated, after “political developments in Madhya Pradesh”. The ED denied that their probe was motivated by political vendetta and alleged that “Puri fled from their custody on Friday, and went to Lalit Hotel to meet with his lawyers and to prepare anticipatory bail”.
ED’s lawyer, Singh, told the court, “Puri sought adjournment on several occasions and was not providing them with information and was misusing his liberty.”
Singh also addressed the defence counsels claim that truckloads of documents were provided to ED. Lifting a tied stack of files with his index finger before the judge, Singh said, “This is the truckload of documents that they (Puri’s counsels) are talking about.”
Rejecting the ED’s allegations against Puri, his company, Hindustan Power Project, said: “The Group confirms to the highest standard of ethics and governance and categorically denies any involvement in AgustaWestland helicopter or any defence deal. The promoter and the company is fully cooperating and will continue to cooperate with the Enforcement Directorate and has provided all the information requested.”
“All claims regarding his involvement in the AgustaWestland deal is false and incorrect. We strongly deny the unsubstantiated, speculative and fictional allegations being made in this matter. Since the matter is sub-judice, we don’t wish to comment any further on this.”
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