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VVIP chopper deal: 'ED tried to dilute Agusta probe’

Enforcement Directorate sat on AgustaWestland investigation for at least seven months

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: May 5 2016 12:25PM | Updated Date: May 5 2016 12:25PM

VVIP chopper deal: 'ED tried to dilute Agusta probe’

 As Enforcement Directorate (ED) continues its "money laundering" investigation in the AgustaWestland scam by questioning realty firm Emaar-MGF's boss Shravan Gupta on Wednesday and lining up ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi for Thursday, it has come to light that agency was not interested in investigate the case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, a report in ‘The Times of India’ has said.

 
Gupta is being questioned as alleged European middleman Guido Haschke was a director of the firm between September and December 2009. 
 
Another accused, Gautam Khaitan, was also on the board of directors of Emaar-MGF for some time.
 
According to the paper, ED not just sat on AgustaWestland investigation for at least seven months after receiving a copy of CBI's FIR in December 2013 but the then senior officials of the agency suggested that probe to be conducted under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 violations.
 
Investigations under FEMA come under civil offences and attracted only penalties till 2015 but it was amended by government after which agency can now attach properties and even examine suspects.
 
Case in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal on March 14, 2013, was registered by CBI. ED, which registers PMLA cases (predicate offence) on the basis of CBI and police FIRs, sent a request to CBI seeking a FIR copy so that it could go ahead with "money laundering" probe. 
 
However, CBI did not provide the FIR to the ED for several months even after two reminders.
 
ED received the FIR in December 2013 and then decision wasn't taken for few more months. 
 
During this time, ED's wrote on the file that "a FEMA probe should be done in VVIP chopper deal", which sources said was a move to dilute and delay the "money trail" investigation.
 
A senior ED officer then highlighted that it was a case of "money laundering" after which an FIR under PMLA was filed on July 3, 2014, and several persons, including Gautam Khaitan, Tyagi brothers and others were questioned.