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Khaitan did not join trial in Italy, ED tells court

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), while opposing the bail plea of businessman Gautam Khaitan arrested in a money laundering case related to the AgustaWestland chopper deal, Wednesday informed a court here that he did not join the trial in Italy.

The ED statement came after a fresh bail plea was moved by Khaitan citing the acquittal of two foreigners of graft charges by an Italian court.

ED counsel N. K. Matta told the Central Bureau of Investigation special judge V. K. Gupta that Gautam Khaitan never joined the trial in Italy and the arrest warrants were still pending against him in an Italian court.

In his fresh plea, Khaitan told the court that in a similar case the Italian court passed a verdict exonerating two foreign nationals accused of bribery and corruption in India and in this view the ED’s allegation that he had received kickbacks now stands “eroded”.

The investigating agency countered it and said that an Aug 5 order of the Italian court shows that Khaitan was involved in money laundering as the court there has mentioned about the illegal acts.

“The bail application is nothing but a clear attempt of the applicant Khaitan to frustrate the investigation going on,” a reply filed by ED investigating officer Vikas Mehta said.

The court set Thursday for delivering the order on Khaitan’s bail plea.

The Italian court on Oct 9 acquitted former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini of corruption charges in the chopper deal with India.

They were, however, sentenced to a two-year jail term on lesser charges of falsification of invoices.

The ED had earlier countered the bail plea of Khaitan saying he was actively involved in activities connected with the proceeds of crime.

Khaitan, who was on the board of the Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix, was arrested a day after the agency conducted a search of his premises Sep 22.

The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from British firm AgustaWestland came under scrutiny after Italian authorities alleged that a bribe had been paid by the company to clinch the deal with India, inked in February 2010.

India Jan 1 terminated the Rs.3,600 crore (about $ 770 million) deal with AgustaWestland for the purchase of the choppers following allegations of kickbacks having been paid to fix the deal.

India had paid around 45 percent of the total contract value for the choppers which were meant to ferry the president, the prime minister and other VIPs.

The ED had registered a case in this deal in July 2013 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and booked former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, foreign nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, companies like AgustaWestland, its parent company Italy-based Finmeccanica, Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix as well as two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, a few other firms and unknown persons in its criminal complaint.

Twenty one entities have been named by the ED in the case.

A separate case was lodged by the CBI in March 2013 against Tyagi and others in connection with the kickback allegations.

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