VVIP Chopper deal: Kickbacks laundered, invested in company owned by Puri, says ED

Deeptiman Tiwary
Ratul Puri

Alleged kickbacks to the tune of several hundred crores of rupees in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal were allegedly laundered and invested in a company directly owned by Ratul Puri, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has told a special court.

Puri, the nephew of Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath, also tried to systematically destroy evidence and threatened witnesses against disclosing information with regard to his “father and uncle”, the ED has alleged.

In a supplementary prosecution complaint (equivalent to a chargesheet) filed before a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court, the ED recently cited detailed evidence in the form of email exchanges and financial transactions to prove that front companies floated by Puri received $1.24 million and Euro 0.7 million from companies associated with AgustaWestland deal middlemen Christian Michel and Guido Haschke. Part of this money was eventually invested through a maze of transactions into Hindustan Power Projects Pvt Ltd (HPPPL), a company directly owned by Puri, ED said in the complaint.

Part of this money was used for personal purposes by Puri, which included “jetsetting” globally, vacationing in Phuket, Thailand and splurging in casinos in Las Vegas, the ED alleged. “Statements of the American Express credit card of Ratul Puri for the period November 2011 to October 2016 reveals that the amounts spent on the same are USD 4.5m,” the complaint said.

The agency stated that much of this evidence was gathered during a September raid on the residence of a woman known to Puri. The ED said that the woman’s association with Puri is a matter of judicial record as Puri had chosen to meet her over his family members while he was in jail. The agency also alleged that Puri used her to destroy evidence related to the case.

Claiming it learnt this through intelligence inputs, the ED said, “...the fact of burning of documents have been established and ashes recovered... Rajiv Saxena has also been threatened and pressurised by... Puri not to give evidence against Ratul’s father and uncle.” The complaint did not specify who this uncle was.

Using technical evidence, the ED claimed to have proved that emails related to laundering of chopper deal money emanated from an IP address at MoserBaer company in Okhla, Delhi. Moser Baer is owned by Puri’s family. It also demonstrated how MoserBaer allegedly over-invoiced purchase of BluRay DVD machines to mask alleged illicit funds and eventually pumped them into HPPPL.

When contacted, Puri’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal refused to comment.

According to the ED, Puri’s name cropped up during the interrogation of co-accused in the case Sushen Mohan Gupta and Rajiv Saxena, who was deported from the UAE this January.

Saxena, who became an approver in the case only to be rejected recently by the ED, provided a large chunk of evidence in terms of “the account of Ratul Puri maintained with him” and emails and details of transactions carried out by Puri through his companies or “companies maintained/incorporated for the benefit of Ratul Puri”.

“On Scrutiny of the email instructions, it was seen that Ratul Puri was giving instructions from the email accounts of ratul.puri@hpppl.in, nokiasamsung35@yahoo.co.uk and nokiasamsung35@yahoo.com for laundering the proceeds of crime in the instant case,” the complaint said.

The chargesheet listed nine companies that it claimed were incorporated by Saxena and other people in foreign countries “for the benefit of Ratul Puri” for laundering money received from Intersteller Technologies, IDS Tunisia and Global Services Sarl, floated by Michel and Haschke among others. These included Technostone Ltd, Hendon Global Ltd, Trade Services Agency, Prodexco Iberia, Melleger Ltd, Pacific International FZC, Midas Metals International, Metolix Ltd and Euro Trade Ltd.

According to the complaint, money flowed from Intersteller to Hendon, Technostone and other entities. From here transfers were made to one Pangea Emerging Infrastructure Fund in Mauritius. In turn, Pangea invested Rs 190.5 crore in Cobol Technologies Pvt Ltd, a company owned by HPPPL.

Describing one such trail, the complaint has said in 2010-11, Moser Baer decided to upgrade its CD manufacturing technology by purchasing Blue Ray machines. For this, it entered into an agreement with Singulus Technologies, the manufacturer. But in 2011, it bought Blue Ray manufacturing machines from Pacific International FZC, a Dubai-based comp[any owned by Saxena, at double the price.

The surplus money (of USD 0.65 million), ED has said, was transferred to Technostone. “The funds that were transferred to Technostone Ltd which i9s one of the feeder companies, funds the corpus of Pangea ...which then funds Cobol Technologies, a company of Ratul Puri,” the complaint has said.

The complaint has claimed that one of the companies involved in the transactions, Continental Administrative Services, “figures in Panama leaks for setting offshore structures for laundering proceeds of crime.”

On his links with NIamat Bakshi, the ED complaint said, "Niamat Singh is in a relationship with the accused Ratul Puri since 2016. The same is a matter of judicial records. The accused Ratul Puri had requested to meet her in the time allowed by this honourable court over his family members. She has also been going to his office to handle his business and looking after his legal matters."