One of the prime accused turned approver in the AgustaWestland scam, Rajiv Saxena, has named key Congress leaders and their relatives over alleged involvement in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam. In his interrogation in connection with the scam, Saxena named senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, Kamal Nath’s son Bakul Nath and Sonia Gandhi’s close aide Ahmed Patel.
Saxena, who was picked up by UAE government security agencies in Dubai and later extradited to India on January 30, 2019, and who later turned approver, was interrogated by the Enforcement Directorate, which attached his assets worth Rs 385 crore. The ED has now approached the apex court to revoke the approver status of Rajiv Saxena for not revealing the complete disclosure of facts in the case.
According to Saxena’s deposition, which was accessed by Indian Express, along with other important documents such as copies of bank statements, accounts of offshore companies, and email communication between key stakeholders, he had allegedly admitted to carrying out several hawala transactions and setting up a complex web of offshore structures for the co-accused.
The most essential part of Saxena’s statement involves how the alleged kickbacks of the Agusta Westland deal, which was later cancelled by the UPA II government, ran 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.
Kickbacks received included benefits for political leaders and bureaucrats for influencing the decision: Saxena
As per Saxena’s confession to Enforcement Directorate, the kickbacks also entailed the benefits for the political leaders and bureaucrats at the time who played a crucial role in influencing the decision in favour of the Agusta Westland. Some of the payoffs, through direct and indirect means, were routed to India with the help of structures built by him, Saxena has admitted, as per the Indian Express report.
In the supplementary charge sheet filed on September 17, 2020 by the CBI, Saxena was said to be the owner of 99.9% shares of Interstellar Technologies in 2000. He, along with Gautam Khaitan, received 12.4 million euros in their company’s bank account from Augusta-Westland. Subsequently, this amount was further distributed among middlemen, leaders and officials. He cited defence affairs intermediary Susheen Mohan Gupta and Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri as key players in the transaction.
Both of them were also taken in custody, but are currently out on bail. Gupta and Khaitan were accused of using names of senior Congress leaders such as Salman Khurshid and Kamal Nath as if they were in thick with these leaders. Saxena used to refer to Kamal Nath as “Kamal Uncle” and refer Ahmed Patel with his name’s abbreviation AP.
Bakul Nath’s company used to launder money received in kickbacks: Saxena
In addition to this, Saxena also cites a critical link with a company named Pristine River Investments. “We(Gupta and myself) received bridge funding through Pristine River Investments, a company managed by John Docherty for Bakul Nath, son of Kamal Nath. Therefore, indirectly funds from Interstellar Technologies and Global Services were used to pay off the loans from Pristine River Investments,” Saxena said.
Kamal Nath and Salman Khurshid refute allegations levelled against them
Meanwhile, Kamal Nath has rubbished the allegations, claiming that he had nothing to do with the companies or the transactions of his nephew Ratul Puri, as per the Indian Express report. The former Madhya Pradesh chief minister also contended that his son Bakul Nath, who is an NRI based out of Dubai, has no inkling of any company named such as Pristine River. The Congress leader, defending his son, said there are no documents or bank accounts to prove his son’s connection with the organisation.
On the other hand, Khurshid has expressed surprise over his name being cropped up as a part of the Agusta Westland investigations. Khurshid admitted that he knows Dev Mohan Gupta, the father of Sushen Mohan Gupta, by the virtue of being a close family friend and besides knowing him well, he has no connection with anyone involved in the case, including Rajiv Saxena.
Ratal Puri, Kamal Nath’s nephew, has claimed that he has never been involved in any defence agreement. However, interestingly, Saxena had admitted on one occasion Rata Puri had visited him in Dubai after his wife Shivani Saxena was arrested by the ED in December 2018.
In 2019, Puri was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for bank fraud. Puri appeared before the investigating agency in the chopper scam, after which he was also arrested in July 2019. Following this, taking cognizance of the FIR by the CBI, a criminal case was registered against him and others. In one other case, he was accused of committing fraud to the tunes of ₹ 354 crores.