Gautam Khaitan remanded to five-day custody
New Delhi : Businessman Gautam Khaitan, arrested in connection with the Rs.3,600 cr AgustaWestland chopper deal case, was on Tuesday remanded to five-day Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody after the probe agency alleged that Rs.360 cr was paid as kickbacks in the entire deal.
Khaitan, who was on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix, which was allegedly a front firm for the financial dealings in the chopper deal, was produced before the court after expiry of his seven days custodial interrogation and ED sought extension of his remand by a week.
Seeking extension of his custody, ED prosecutor Naveen Kumar Matta told Metropolitan Magistrate Sunil Kumar Sharma that during the probe conducted by the agency, they have found that in the €552.25 mn deal, €70 mn was paid as kickbacks between 2010 and 2012.
“During the investigation, we have found that in this €552.25 mn deal, €70 mn was paid as kickbacks. The probe in Italy in the matter is going on and we are here to trace the proceeds of crime,” Matta said.
Senior advocate P V Kapur, appearing for Khaitan, opposed the contentions of ED saying there was no apprehension that his client will flee from justice and he had always cooperated in a separate probe being conducted by the CBI in the matter. He argued that no proper justification has been given by ED to seek Khaitan’s custody for another seven days.
“Khaitan is a soft target. More serious allegations have been levelled against other co-accused. Khaitan, being a lawyer, is the softest target whereas others have not been arrested yet,” Kapur argued. The court, after hearing the submissions of both the parties, extended the ED’s custody of Khaitan by five more days.
During the hearing, ED’s prosecutor Vikas Garg told the court that the agency has sent two mobile phones of the accused and hard disks recovered from his house and office to Bangalore for retrieving datas in it.
“This case has international ramifications and this person (Khaitan) is required for further custodial interrogation. We have also recorded the statement of one of his employees and some new facts have emerged,” the agency said. 188 documents have been retrieved and Khaitan was required to be confronted with it, it said, adding that by October 3, the agency would receive the reports from Bangalore. After the defence counsel raised the issue that CBI has not yet arrested any accused in the case, the ED said, “Our job is to trace out the proceeds of crime. We have to find out the money trail, CBI’s case is standing as on date.”
The defence counsel countered the submissions of ED, saying Khaitan had joined the ongoing probe whenever he was called by the CBI and there was no need to arrest him in the case.
“What is their apprehension? What is the need for seeking seven days custody now? He (Khaitan) will not run away. His business is affected…custody cannot be granted in a routine fashion,” the counsel said.
However, the court allowed the ED’s plea and remanded Khaitan to its custody for five more days, saying, “Accused is in custody for various serious allegations of money laundering against him.”