The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested lawyer Gautam Khaitan, a co-accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, in a fresh money laundering case, agency officials said on Saturday.
He was produced before a duty magistrate on Saturday, who remanded him in ED custody till January 28.
The arrest comes a week after the Income Tax Department raided Khaitan’s offices and various other properties in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
The ED told Metropolitan Magistrate Neetu Sharma that it is on the trail of black money of over Rs 500 crore liked to Khaitan and that he is denying knowledge of documents connected to that transaction.
“The custody is required to unearth the entire conspiracy,” ED told the court.
Khaitan’s counsel Pramod Kumar Dubey opposed the ED plea saying that the arrest is illegal as the whole case pertains to AgustaWestland and that the accused has been arrested in the case earlier.
But ED’s prosecutors said the present case had nothing to do with the alleged AgustaWestland matter.
“In the offence of money laundering, the knowledge of the transaction and the documents is the material information and it always lies only in the personal knowledge of the accused person. Therefore, there is a ground for granting the accused person the custody,” Magistrate Sharma said.
The court agreed with ED that if any transaction disclosed a new case, then the offence required a separate investigation.
However, it denied the ED plea seeking seven-day custodial interrogation and said that two days are enough for the agency to question Khaitan.
It is learnt that the department has gathered evidence against the lawyer for allegedly receiving kickbacks in other defence deals, besides AgustaWestland, during the UPA tenure.
The ED said that the lawyer had been “controlling” the modus operandi and was responsible for routing the money, misusing his connections and clients, including the ones inherited from his father, to launder the money through a variety of accounts in Dubai, Mauritius, Singapore, Tunisia, Switzerland, the UK and India.
Agency officials said the accounts included those of his undisclosed shell companies outside India.
A source told IANS that the ED has also found a Zambia connection of Khaitan. He is known to be close to Henry Banda, one of the three sons of former President Rupiah Banda, who is accused of abusing his authority as head of state between 2008 and 2011.
Dingani Banda received 250,000 euros from IDS Tunisia, a company that laundered money in the AgustaWestland scam, the source added.
Khaitan apparently helped set up trust and companies for Henry Banda in Seychelles to buy a property in Kenya.
The ED as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation has named Khaitan in their separate charge sheets in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.
Khaitan was arrested in September 2014 for his alleged involvement in the AgustaWestland deal.
He got bail in January 2015 and was again arrested along with Sanjeev Tyagi, another accused in the case, on December 9, 2016, by the CBI. He later secured bail.
The CBI charge sheet has described Khaitan as the brain behind the Agusta Westland deal.