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Gautam Khaitan bail adjourned to DC over jurisdiction, Sid Luthra argues

A Delhi court yesterday remanded OP Khaitan & Co managing partner Gautam Khaitan in judicial custody for two days after a technical issue delayed hearing of his bail plea.

Khaitan had been arrested last month in connection to the AgustaWestland chopper deal, and has been represented so far by senior counsel Sidharth Luthra and PV Kapur.

Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh extended the judicial custody of Khaitan, presented before court on expiry of his two-day judicial custody, till 9 October after the case was marked to him by the officiating district judge.

Khaitan on 1 October moved his bail plea before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal, who has issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to respond to his bail plea Tuesday.

During the day’s hearing, ED’s counsel Naveen Kumar Matta argued that under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, only a special court has the power to hear the bail application.

The contention, however, was opposed by senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, who appeared for Khaitan, saying that when remand of the accused was given by this court, then why couldn’t it hear the bail application.

The ED said that for the purpose of remand, the CMM’s court was competent to decide.

After hearing the arguments, CMM Khanagwal referred the case to the district judge, who was on leave Tuesday, to decide on the issue of jurisdiction for hearing bail plea and giving remand.

The case was marked to Sessions Judge Singh by the officiating district judge. After extending the custody of Khaitan, Singh referred the matter to the district judge for 9 October to decide on the issue of jurisdiction on hearing the bail plea and granting remand of the accused.

Khaitan, who was on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix, was arrested a day after the agency conducted a search of his premises on 22 September.

The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from British firm AgustaWestland came under scrutiny after Italian authorities alleged that a bribe had been paid by the company to clinch the deal with India inked in February 2010.

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

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 and booked former Indian Air Force chief SP 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.

Twenty-one entities have been named by the ED in the case.

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

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