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Chopper scam: ED opposes Ratul Puri's plea for copy of his statements

The Enforcement Directorate Friday opposed the plea of Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, seeking a copy of his statements recorded by the agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the copper scam.

Puri is an accused in a money laundering case related to the now scrapped Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland chopper deal.

Justice Sunil Gaur, after hearing arguments, reserved the order on the plea.

Puri has challenged a trial court's August 6 order by which his application for supply of copy of his statements under section 50(2) of PMLA was dismissed.

Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for Puri, told the court that proceedings under Section 50 of the PMLA are of civil nature and these are judicial proceedings so there is no bar on supplying the accused statements, which run into over 100 pages.

Appearing for the ED, advocates D P Singh and Amit Mahajan opposed the plea contending that the statements are part of its ongoing investigation and it cannot be disclosed at this stage.

The trial court had also dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in the case, noting that the investigation is at a crucial stage.

Puri, a businessman, claimed that the application was dismissed in gross violation of his fundamental rights as well as rights of natural justice.

"The special judge dismissed the application for supply of copy of the statement under section 50(2) of the PMLA without even considering the grounds raised by the petitioner, despite the fact liberty was granted by this court to urge the said grounds," the plea said.

It alleged that there was no basis for providing any special treatment to the ED regarding the statements recorded by it during the proceedings which are deemed to be judicial proceedings in terms of section 59(4) of the PMLA.

Puri, chairman of Hindustan Powerprojects Pvt Ltd, had on July 27 approached the trial court seeking anticipatory bail in the case, saying he feared arrest in the case.

He had appeared before the ED for questioning in the case and it has been seeking his custody to further investigate the matter.

The agency's counsel had earlier contended before the trial court that Puri was an influential person and might flee the country.

The case pertains to alleged irregularities in purchase of 12 VVIP choppers from Italy-based Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland.

The deal was scrapped by the NDA government in 2014 over the alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of payment of kickbacks for securing the deal.