A Delhi Court on Thursday dismissed the Enforcement Directorate’s plea for cancellation of bail granted to the accused Gautam Khaitan in AgustaWestland money laundering case.
Special Judge Arvind Kumar while passing the order noted that the alleged act raised by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the part of the accused Gautam Khaitan is not so serious as to warrant the cancellation of bail of the accused. However, the court imposed several more bail conditions on Khaitan.
“However, some further conditions need to be imposed on accused to avoid any chance of tampering of evidence or influencing the witnesses. The accused shall report to the ED office once a week. He shall not contact any witness of this case particularly Pareen Khan. It is made clear that the aforesaid conduct of the accused shall be considered, also at the time of considering the request of the accused for the permission to travel abroad, if made,” the court said in the order.
The ED contended that the accused Gautam Khaitan had tried to mislead the investigating agency in as much as in his statement recorded in 2014 he failed to recognise Pareen Khan, however, in the year 2017-2018 he mentioned her to be a family friend of the accused of more than 30 years and tried to avoid joining investigation on the excuse of paucity of time from December 18, 2019 to December 21, 2019, in order to avoid confrontation with the witness namely Pareen Khan who was in India to join the investigation.
The ED further said that other than meeting Pareen Khan personally, the accused has been contacting her regularly either through Whatsapp messages or through alternate mobile numbers.
It is submitted that accused has been instructing the witness to delete the chat messages and has been deleting the same from his own mobile phone.
The ED also submitted that the accused kept on projecting a wrong picture of the investigation and kept telling Pareen Khan to not come to India to join the investigation.
The ED also contended that the accused Gautam Khaitan had made all possible attempts to derail the investigation and not let the said witness join the investigation and asked her to destroy the Whatsapp chat. Accused Gautam Khaitan had further tutored her for presumable questions of the investigation in case of any eventuality.
Meanwhile, senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra and Advocate Pramod Luthra who represented Gautam Khaitan submitted that the accused was granted bail on January 9, 2015 after being arrested on September 23, 2014 and has since then cooperated with the investigation and attended all the court hearings in the last five years.
The lawyers further stated that Pareen Khan had not been cited as a witness in any of the complaints/supplementary complaints filed by the ED.
Therefore, there was no reason for the accused to influence her. It is contended that Pareen Khan had nothing to do with the AgustaWestland controversy, which is the admitted case of the ED.
According to the ED, the accused Gautam Khaitan is involved in laundering proceeds of crime and there is sufficient evidence against him that he had floated and used various shell companies in his name and in the name of his clients to launder the proceeds of crime arising out of 12 VVIP helicopter deals between the Government of India and AgustaWestland.
The AgustaWestland case is an alleged case of corruption that is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED. It has been alleged that bribes were paid during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime to “middlemen”, perhaps even politicians, when India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters built by an Italian defence manufacturing Company Finmeccanica at an estimated cost of Rs 3,600 crore. Later in 2014, the said deal was scrapped by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.