Moser Baer case: Delhi Court dismisses bail plea of Nitin Bhatnagar

New Delhi [India], September 27 (ANI):  The Rouse Avenue Court has dismissed the bail plea moved by Nitin Bhatnagar, a Maltese Citizen recently arrested in connection with his alleged involvement in the offence of Money Laundering in a case of M/s Moser Baer India Ltd. and others.

Bhatnagar was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 on August 22, 2023.

The Special Judge Raghubir Singh last week while dismissed the bail plea, said “no ground for grant of bail is made out and that application in hand stands disposed of as dismissed”.

Lawyers appearing for Bhatnagar submitted that accused/applicant is a citizen of Malta, whereas his father lives in Delhi and his arrest was ‘not legal’ as no permission was there to further investigate the case.

Bhatnagar was was neither named in the FIR ( of the Scheduled Offence) nor in the ECIR of the present ED case nor his name does appear in the Prosecution Complaints.

It was further submitted that accused/applicant joined the investigation for 25 consecutive dates reckoned from the month of January 2020. The ED had even officially removed the LOC (in the year 2022) issued qua him as he had cooperated with it during the course of the investigation.

The accused/applicant later on came to know that the LOC was revived qua him on August 14, 2023 and that prior to the said date, the applicant had returned back to India for some business engagements. He was arrested at the Airport on August 22, 2023, while he was going to board a flight to return home.

This act on the part of the ED gives rise to reasonable concerns about the timing and underline intent of their action despite full cooperation on the part of the accused/ applicant, stated Counsel appeared for Bhatnagar.

ED opposed the plea on the ground that the investigation of the present matter was going on and that the release of accused/applicant at this stage has every likelihood of him tampering with the evidence and influencing the witnesses.

Apprehension has also been reflected in the sense that the accused/applicant is a ‘foreign national’ and he may flee from justice. It is also averred that the Investigating Agency was in the process of conducting the investigation and collecting of documentary evidence concerning the accused persons and that the Complaint/ Supplementary Complaint qua the accused/applicant was yet to be filed, stated the ED.

According to ED, the investigation was initiated against M/s Moser Baer India Ltd. and others under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 on the basis of FIR on August 17, 2019 registered by CBI under various sections of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The account of M/s Moser Baer India Ltd. was declared as Fraud by the complainant bank on April 20, 2019 and the loan amount was siphoned off by the directors, namely Ratul Puri (Nephew of Congress leader Kamalnath) and his family members.

As per the Enforcement Directorate, Nitin Bhatnagar helped in opening of a bank account in April 2011 in the name of M/s Pristine River Investments Limited in the Bank of Singapore. M/s Pristine River Investments Limited was a Dubai based investment holding company, on the direction of Ratul Puri. The entity M/s Pristine River Investments Limited was fully owned by the Savannah Trust. Ratul Puri was the settler of the Savannah Trust.

ED investigation revealed that M/s Pristine River Investments Limited received the proceeds of crime amounting to USD 14.18 million from M/s UHY Saxena, M/s Mercon Commodities and M/s Midas Metals International, entities that were managed and controlled by Rajiv Saxena.

According to the ED, Rajiv Saxena is a hawala operator and an accommodation entry provider who runs an accommodation entry business in Dubai, who has laundered proceeds of crime for Moser Baer India Limited. He has created structures for laundering the proceeds of crime generated by Ratul Puri and his family members.

Investigation has revealed that the account of M/s Pristine River Investments Limited has been used for layering of proceeds of crime and Nitin Bhatnagar was actively involved in layering of these proceeds of crime for main accused Ratul Puri. Earlier, ED in this case, arrested the businessman, Ratul Puri in the year 2019.

Further, during investigation Rajiv Saxena, the hawala operator and Rajiv Aggarwal, allegedly a close associate of Ratul Puri, were arrested in 2021 and prosecution complaints have been already filed against these accused persons. Property amounting to USD 47.95 million has been already attached in this case, stated the ED.