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SOURCE: ENS

Not just former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri but his son Bakul Nath, too, along with Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Ahmed Patel, finds mention in the interrogation statements of Rajiv Saxena, chartered accountant and key accused in the Rs 3,000-crore Augusta Westland VVIP chopper deal case.

Saxena, currently on bail, was extradited from Dubai in January 2019 and was interrogated by the Enforcement Directorate, which attached his assets worth Rs 385 crore. The ED is now before the Supreme Court in a bid to divest Saxena of his approver status for allegedly not fully disclosing the facts of the case.

Saxena’s statement, running into over 1,000 pages (including supporting documents) was accessed by The Indian Express along with copies of banking statements, records of offshore companies, and email correspondence between key players. These show several alleged hawala transactions and a complex web of offshore structures that Saxena admitted to setting up for the co-accused.

The crux of Saxena’s statement details how alleged kickbacks of the Augusta Westland deal — it was cancelled by the UPA II government – flowed through two companies, Saxena’s Interstellar Technologies and Global Services owned by Christian Michel who was extradited to India in December 2018 and remains in jail.

These payoffs, Saxena told ED, “were (also) for the benefit of political leaders and bureaucrats who were in a positionof influencing the decision at that point of time. Some of these funds were once again, directly or indirectly, through structured transactions, and some of the structures set up by me, were routed into investments in India.”

In its latest supplementary chargesheet filed on September 17, the CBI has said that in 2000, Saxena acquired 99.9% shares of Interstellar Technologies.

The chargesheet cites Letters Rogatory from Italy and Mauritius and alleges that Saxena, in collusion with Gautam Khaitan, received Euro 12.40 million in the account of Interstellar Technologies from Augusta Westland. This was “further routed/laundered for paying the middlemen and suspected public servants involved in the case…”

There are also details of payments totalling Euro 9,48,862 made by Global Services into four companies owned by Saxena: Pacific International FZC; Midas Metals International LLC; Metolix Ltd; and Eurotrade Ltd.

Saxena’s interrogation focuses on financial transactions of two other key Augusta Westland case accused, defence dealer Sushen Mohan Gupta and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri.

Both Gupta and Puri have been in custody and are now on bail.

Saxena alleges that “name-dropping” by Gupta and Khaitan was “legendary.” “They frequently dropped names of leading political figures in their conversation with a view to impress upon their influence in the corridors of power. They often mentioned the names of Salman Khurshid and Kamal uncle which I deduce was a reference to Mr Kamal Nath…”

Answering a direct question on political beneficiaries, Saxena said: “I am aware that Interstellar Technologies Limited was one of the main companies to receive kickbacks from the Augusta Westland. Interstellar Technologies was beneficially owned by Sushen Mohan Gupta who controlled the company through Gautam Khaitan…During my meetings with Sushen Mohan Gupta and Gautam Khaitan they often mentioned political beneficiaries in India. The name AP was mentioned by them and was a reference to Ahmed Patel.’’

Revealing alleged political links of the payoffs via company structures set up by him or through his Dubai-based company ies Limited and Global Services have flowed into Moser Power Limited (Ratul Puri’s company) through Optima Investments P Ltd, a company controlled by Ratul Puri and his family.”

In his statement, Saxena brings up a crucial connection with a company called Pristine River Investments. “We (Sushen Mhan Gupta and himself) received bridge funding through Pristine River Investments, a company managed by John Docherty for Bakul Nath, son of Kamal Nath. Thus, indirectly funds from Interstellar Technologies and Global Services were used to repay the loans from Pristine River Investments.”

When contacted, Kamal Nath told The Indian Express: “I have stated earlier that I have nothing to do with the companies or transactions of my nephew, Ratul Puri. As far as my son, Bakul Nath, is concerned, he is an NRI based in Dubai. I had heard about him being described as the Beneficial Owner of Pristine River and when I spoke to my son, he said he knew nothing about the company. There are no documents or bank accounts which prove a connection to him. Anyone can open an offshore account and put a name of someone as Beneficial Owner and not even inform him. He may not even know about it.”

When contacted, Khurshid said: “I am surprised that my name has cropped up as part of the Augusta Westland investigations. Dev Mohan Gupta, the father of Sushen Mohan Gupta is a close family friend and I am his well wisher. Besides knowing him well, I do not know or have any connection with other persons named in the case like Ratul Puri or Rajiv Saxena.’’

Interestingly, in one of the latest sets of dozens of question-answer transcripts, Saxena has admitted that Ratul Puri had visited him in Dubai following his wife Shivani Saxena’s arrest by the ED in December 2018.

During the meeting, Saxena said, he (Saxena) showed Puri evidence of remittances from Global Services linked to the Augusta Westland kickbacks. He has also admitted that, “he (Ratul Puri) stated that he did not know Christian Michel James but these transactions have been carried out by his hawala operators…I have been sent messages by him since the time he came to Dubai instructing me not to give any document/information/statement linking his father or his uncle in any matter…”

When contacted, Puri told The Indian Express: “Neither I, in my personal capacity nor my company have been involved in any business relating to defence, defence procurement or armaments…We operate and own multiple businesses in various countries…we comply with all the necessary local rules, regulations and laws that pertain to India. As the matter is sub-judice, therefore, we cannot comment.”