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Sid Luthra fails to save OP Khaitan partner Gautam Khaitan from ED custody

OP Khaitan & Co managing partner Gautam Khaitan, who was arrested early Tuesday in the AgustaWestland chopper deal case, has been produced before a court, which sent him to seven days Enforcement Directorate custody.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal sent Khaitan to ED custody after he was produced by the ED.

Khaitan, who was on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix, was arrested early in the morning in the case after the agency conducted a search of his premises Monday.

ED’s counsel Navin Kumar Matta told the court that they have collected certain documents and relevant material related to the money trail in the case, and said Khaitan’s custody was required to unravel the entire conspiracy.

However, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra and lawyer Pramod Kumar Dubey, appearing for Khaitan, opposed the ED plea, saying that the case is based on the money trail and the probe can be continued without taking custody of the accused. They said that the ED must quiz bank officials to unearth the money trail in the case.

The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from British firm AgustaWestland came under scrutiny after Italian authorities alleged that a bribe was paid by the company to clinch the deal.

India Jan 1 terminated the Rs 3,600 crore (about $770 million) deal with AgustaWestland for the purchase of 12 VVIP choppers over allegations of kickbacks having been paid to fix the deal.

The deal was inked in February 2010 for supply of the 12 helicopters to the Indian Air Force. India had paid around 45 percent of the total contract value for the choppers which were meant to ferry the president, the prime minister and other VIPs.

The ED had registered a case in this deal in July 2013 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and booked former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, foreign nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, companies like AgustaWestland, its parent company Italy-based Finmeccanica, Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix as well as two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, a few other firms and unknown persons in its criminal complaint.

A total of 21 entities have been named by the ED in the case.

A separate case was lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation March 2013 against Tyagi and others in connection with the kickback allegations.

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