VVIP Chopper deal: ED dispatches LRs to two countries

Last Updated 29 January 2015, 09:54 IST

Enforcement Directorate has sent the first set of judicial request letters to Tunisia and Italy in connection with its money laundering probe into alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal.

Official sources said the agency dispatched the legal assistance letters after it got these Letters Rogatory (LRs) sanctioned from a competent court here sometime back.

"The first two LRs have been sent to Tunisia and Italy. These judicial requests have sought details with regard to some transactions and company statements in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal which the agency is probing," the sources said.

They, however, declined to disclose specific details about the enquiries made by the agency through these legal mutual assistance requests used in criminal cases.

ED has filed a criminal case last year under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection with the alleged paybacks in the deal which has been earlier cancelled by the government.

The agency has detected that over 170 'fake firms' were floated to route the alleged illegal funds between Indian and foreign firms as kickbacks for procurement of military helicopters for the country and the LRs are an attempt to find out these details.

The agency is also expected to send LRs to Mauritius, the UK, Dubai, Switzerland and few other jurisdictions in Europe to piece together the flow of funds.

The ED, the sources said, had made these requests under the existing protocols and tax information exchange treaties between India and these jurisdictions as defined for assistance in criminal matters.

The agency had earlier registered a case under foreign exchange laws in this deal after which it decided to lodge a criminal case under PMLA to trace the alleged bribe money involving middlemen and other people named by CBI in its FIR filed in March 2013.

Taking cognisance of the more-than-a-year-old CBI complaint, the agency has booked former IAF chief SP Tyagi, his family members, European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, four companies— Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix, two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, few other firms and unknown persons in its criminal complaint.

Businessman and lawyer Gautam Khaitan was the first person to be arrested in September last year by ED in the case. At present, he is out on bail.

The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland came under the scanner after Italian authorities had alleged that bribes were paid by the company to clinch the deal on procuring helicopters for VVIPs like the President and the Prime Minister.

Former Air Chief Tyagi is expected to be questioned in this case by the ED soon.

(Published 29 January 2015, 09:54 IST)

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