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AgustaWestland: ED set to widen ambit of probe

By Anuj Cariappa
|

New Delhi, Feb 01: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is set to widen its probe as it is looking into at least a dozen of Swiss bank accounts allegedly linked to Rajeev Saxena and suspected kickbacks paid in deals linked to national carrier Air India where Deepak Talwar is a suspect, official sources said Thursday.

AgustaWestland: ED set to widen ambit of probe

They said the ED will now confront 61-year-old Saxena, a Dubai-based businessman, with Gautam Khaitan to unravel the trail of alleged slush funds and kickbacks paid in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers purchase case.

AgustaWestland: The importance of Rajeev Saxena and how he will help crack the money trail

While Delhi-based lawyer Khaitan has been arrested in this case earlier and he later obtained bail, he was last week again arrested by the central probe agency in a new criminal case of possession of alleged black money.

The agency, in the past, has charged Saxena of being "in collusion" with Khaitan.

Sources said that Saxena, a resident of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, will also be confronted with Christian Michel, the alleged British-origin middleman extradited by India recently in the same case.

A dozen bank accounts located in Switzerland are under the scanner of the agency and it is suspected that Saxena operated them and that a good amount of kickbacks of the helicopters deal could have been parked there, they said.

The agency, sources said, has got a "prize catch" in the form of Talwar (60), whom it suspects to have laundered about Rs 100 crore kickbacks that were sent to bank accounts of an NGO linked to him in India, in connection with sale of Airbus planes to erstwhile Indian Airlines, which was later merged with Air India.

The CBI and the ED are already probing the case, under criminal sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), for alleged irregularities in over Rs 8,000-crore deal for supplying 43 aircraft of the French company to erstwhile Indian Airlines in 2005.

He is also under the scanner for his alleged role in lobbying for certain foreign airlines in a deal related to sharing of profit-making routes of Air India.

"Suspected funds to the tune of Rs 212 crore are under the scanner as this money reportedly was paid as kickbacks to Talwar for the routes sharing deal and money was sent to bank accounts in Singapore," the sources claimed.

AgustaWestland: After Michel, another accused deported to India

While Saxena was sent to a four-day ED custody, Talwar was similarly sent to seven-day custody of the agency by a court here.

Talwar, said to be a corporate lobbyist in the aviation sector, was also wanted by the ED and the CBI in a case of allegedly misusing over Rs 90 crore taken through the foreign funding route.

In a major boost to agencies probing the high-profile corruption cases, the duo were flown in on a special plane that landed in the technical area of the Delhi airport at about 1.30 am on Thursday.

Officials said they were picked by Dubai authorities on Wednesday "in assistance" to a request made by Indian agencies.

The ED had also arrested Saxena's wife Shivani Saxena in this case from the Chennai airport in July, 2017. She is now out on bail.

It had alleged that Rajeev, his wife and their two Dubai-based firms -- Ms UHY Saxena, Dubai and Ms Matrix Holdings -- routed "the proceeds of crime and further layered and integrated in buying the immovable properties/shares among others".

The ED had said its probe found that Agusta Westland International Ltd, UK paid an amount of euro 58 million as kickbacks through Gordian Services Sarl, Tunisia and IDS Sarl, Tunisia.

"These companies further siphoned off the said money/ proceeds of crime in the name of consultancy contracts to Interstellar Technologies Ltd, Mauritius, and others which were further transferred to UHY Saxena, Dubai and Matrix Holdings Ltd. Dubai and others," the ED had charged.

The ED had said Rajeev is "beneficial owner" of Interstellar Technologies Ltd and both his companies received proceeds of crime in their respective Dubai bank accounts from this firm.

It had said that Rajeev Saxena and his wife allegedly remitted/ transferred a "huge amount of money" through their Dubai-based companies to various other accounts.

The ED had named Rajeev Saxena and Shivani Saxena in its charge sheet filed in this case and had got issued a non-bailable warrant against the former.

On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore paid by the firm for securing the deal.

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