The Delhi High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on the bail plea of businessman Gautam Khaitan, who was arrested in a money laundering case in connection with Rs. 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal.
Justice V P Vaish reserved the decision after the counsel for the Centre and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) concluded their arguments.
Khaitan, who is presently in judicial custody, moved the High Court seeking bail after a trial court on October 20 dismissed his plea, saying the investigation in the case is at a “crucial stage”.
Senior advocate P V Kapur and Sidharth Luthra, appearing for Khaitan, had sought bail contending that he was a “soft target” and influential persons, who were also accused in the case, had not yet been arrested by ED.
The counsel argued that their client, who is also an advocate by profession, is in custody since September 23.
They submitted that ED has named 21 entities in the case, but till date only Khaitan has been arrested.
“Till date only one person (Khaitan) has been arrested and two others have been interrogated but not arrested,” the counsel said, adding that former Indian Air Force Chief S P Tyagi and his family members have also been named in the case but they are still at large.
Khaitan was arrested by ED under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). ED had lodged a case in July against Khaitan, Tyagi and 19 others in the VVIP chopper deal case to probe alleged kickbacks.
Khaitan’s counsel had submitted that in a similar case, an Italian court had passed a verdict exonerating two foreign nationals accused of bribery and corruption in India and in this view, ED’s allegation that he had received kickbacks now stands “eroded”.
The bail plea, however, was strongly opposed by ED and the central government which contended that there was a likelihood of Khaitan fleeing from justice, tampering with evidence and hampering the ongoing probe which is at a crucial stage.
ED informed the court that there is “damning evidence against him (Khaitan). He is a kingpin”.
The agency said the recent judgement of the Italian court in the case acquitting former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini of corruption charges does not have any bearing here in the probe into a money laundering matter.