Court asks ED how AgustaWestland charge sheet leaked

The notice to the ED follows media reporting of sections of its charge sheet accusing Ahmed Patel, Shekhar Gupta, Manu Pubby, Raju Santhanam

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AgustaWestland in court

New Delhi: The Patiala House Court in Delhi, which is hearing the AgustaWestland case, has issued a notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), asking how the agency’s charge sheet leaked to the media. The ED will file a reply on Saturday.

The court issued this notice to the ED after sections of the charge sheet, showing the agency’s accusations against the Congress’s Ahmed Patel and journalists Shekhar Gupta, Manu Pubby and Raju Santhanam, were reported by the media.

In one of the sensational revelations, the middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, Christian Michel, is shown confessing that the “AP” in his notes to fellow arms dealers referred to Ahmed Patel and that “fam” implied “family”.

Ball in ED’s court

Elsa K Joseph, the lawyer of the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland case, complained in the court that the charge sheet was given to the media first even before her client Michel received a copy of the same. Michel’s lawyer said further that her client did not name any person.

The defence lawyer accused the Union government of using its agencies for a political agenda. Joseph, who has filed a petition on behalf of Michel, told the court that Michel did not name anyone.

In the charge sheet, the ED has mentioned that, according to a letter from Michel, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was pressured by his party leaders for the AgustaWestland deal.

According to the ED’s charge sheet, Michel bribed Air Force officers, bureaucrats and politicians of the UPA dispensation with an amount £ 30 million for the deal.

Now the court wants to know how all these details are reaching the media at the stage of the trial, sometimes even before the court takes congnisance of a matter.

RG, who?

Recently in the Augusta Westland case, another accused middleman Sushen Gupta had reportedly said that a certain “RG” had taken a bribe of Rs 50 crore between 2004 and 2016. The ED alleged that Gupta has accepted that this RG had received the bribe of Rs 50 crores, but the agency has not revealed yet the full form of the initials.

The ED had demanded the custody of broker Gupta before the court in the case of the AgustaWestland helicopter scam.

The ED said that Sushen Gupta was deliberately trying to wreck the investigation into the case. He is not telling who the “RG” referred to while misleading the investigators. “RG” finds several mentions in Gupta’s diary and pen drive that contain details of the alleged kickbacks in the deal that was later scrapped.

The ED in the court said in its statement that Gupta recognised RG, but he was deliberately not revealing the name. He once said that RG was a certain Rajat Gupta, after which the ED interrogated the named person. However, Rajat Gupta told the ED that Sushen Gupta alone had the information about RG.

Mrs Gandhi too

Earlier, the ED had claimed that the accused AgustaWestland middleman Michel had named “Mrs Gandhi” during the interrogation. In the conversation with other brokers of AgustaWestland, he had allegedly said that the son of the Italian woman will become the next prime minister of India.

On Thursday, ED filed a supplementary charge sheet against Michel in the Patiala House Court. According to sources, this supplementary charge sheet of the ED includes Michel’s statement and an affidavit. Sources claim that this charge sheet is very important and can cause problems for some politicians and former bureaucrats.

The names of RG and Mrs Gandhi surfacing in the case have given the BJP an electoral issue against the Congress. However, the Congress says that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had had nothing to do with the AgustaWestland helicopter deal.