The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted interim protection from arrest to businessman Ratul Puri, who is the nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in a money laundering case related to the AgustaWestland chopper scam, PTI reported. The court gave Puri protection from arrest till August 20, when it will hear the businessman’s plea against a trial court’s order denying him anticipatory bail last week.
Puri’s lawyer sought the interim protection till the next hearing as the businessman apprehended arrest. However, the Enforcement Directorate strongly opposed the plea, saying that no relief should be provided to him as a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against him on August 9.
The investigating agency said that Puri was absconding instead of joining the inquiry into the case. The court had also asked the investigating agency to file a status report, updating it about the latest developments in the money laundering case, Bar and Bench reported.
Earlier on Wednesday, the court also sought details of the “exact role” of Puri in the case, the extent of his property seized by the Income Tax Department, developments after bail was denied to Puri and the reason for his custodial interrogation. Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Puri, said that there was no reason for the interrogation in custody as Puri had already been questioned 26 times over the last six months.
Singhvi also said that the businessman’s name had not appeared on any of the four supplementary complaints in the case and that the Central Bureau of Investigation had not named Puri as an accused in the chopper scam. Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing the Enforcement Directorate, argued against the anticipatory bail and said the investigation was at a “critical stage”.
The Income Tax Department on Sunday seized a Rs 300-crore bungalow under the anti-benami transactions law and also attached Foreign Direct Investments worth Rs 4 crore in its investigation. During proceedings in July this year, the Enforcement Directorate had told the court that Puri had received money transacted during the scam.
The former Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had signed the Rs 3,565-crore helicopter deal in 2010 with the British-Italian firm AgustaWestland. The deal was put on hold after Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company, on charges of paying bribes to win the contract. Christian Michel was extradited to India in January and is now lodged in Tihar Jail.