Delhi court denies bail to Maltese man, who ‘assisted’ Kamal Nath’s nephew, in money laundering case

A Delhi court has denied bail to a Maltese citizen in an alleged Rs 354 crore bank fraud-linked money laundering case also involving Ratul Puri, the businessman nephew of senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.

Special Judge Raghubir Singh dismissed the bail application filed by Nitin Bhatnagar, a citizen of Malta and a former relationship manager of the Bank of Singapore, noting that the investigation regarding him was still going on and the Supplementary Complaint (ED’s equivalent of charge sheet) showing the gist of the crime was yet to be filed.

“No ground for grant of bail is made out and application in hand stands disposed of as dismissed,” the judge said.

In the order passed on September 22, the judge also noted the alleged role of Bhatnagar in the crime and the amount of laundered money while denying him the relief.

“The nature of the offence alleged, the magnitude of the allegedly laundered amount, the role of the accused/applicant as deciphered in the reply to the application in hand and also the fact that the Complaint qua him is yet to be filed, he having been arrested just a month ago, are also the factors which also impel the court not to lean in favour of the accused/applicant at this juncture,” the judge said.

The money laundering case stems from a 2019 FIR registered by the CBI where it was alleged that Moser Baer India Ltd (MBIL) and its promoters allegedly cheated and defrauded the Central Bank of India, from which they had secured loan, to the tune of Rs 354.51 crore.

The case was registered after the bank sent a complaint to the CBI.

Both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate had booked Ratul Puri, his father Deepak Puri, mother Nita (Kamal Nath’s sister) and some others. Ratul Puri was arrested by the ED in this case in 2019 and he is now out on bail.

The CBI and the ED have accused the Puri family and individuals like Sanjay Jain and Vineet Sharma of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and corruption.

Ratul Puri was booked in this case in his capacity as the then executive director of MBIL, a firm promoted by his father Deepak Puri.

The company was involved in manufacturing optical storage media like compact discs, DVDs, and solid state storage devices.

Ratul Puri had resigned from the post of executive director in 2012, while his parents continue to be on the board, the bank had said in a statement and complaint to the CBI.

The company (Moser Baer) was taking loans from various banks since 2009 and went for debt restructuring a number of times, the bank alleged in the complaint.

When it was unable to pay the debt, a forensic audit was done and the account was declared as “fraud” by the Central Bank of India on April 20, 2019, the CBI alleged.

Bhatnagar, the ED told the court, “facilitated” opening of a bank account for a company called Pristine River Investments Ltd (a Dubai-based investment holding company) in the Bank of Singapore, as he was its relationship manager.

This bank account was opened in April, 2011 “on the direction of Ratul Puri”, it claimed.

The company was owned by Savannah Trust of which Ratul Puri was the “settler”, the ED said.

It alleged Pristine River Investments Ltd was used for “layering” the proceeds of crime and Bhatnagar “knowingly assisted in doing so for the main accused Ratul Puri”.

The company (Pristine River) “received the proceeds of crime amounting to USD 14.18 million (over Rs 118 crore) from companies like UHY Saxena, Mercon Commodities and Midas Metals International that were managed and controlled by Rajiv Saxena,” the ED said in a statement.

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Saxena, also an alleged middleman in the VVIP choppers deal corruption case, was based in Dubai and was deported to India from the UAE on January 31, 2019. He was arrested by both the ED and the CBI.

The ED termed Saxena “a hawala operator and an accommodation entry provider who runs an accommodation entry business in Dubai, who has laundered proceeds of crime for MBIL”.

“He has created structures for laundering the proceeds of crime generated by Ratul Puri and his family members,” it alleged.

The ED claimed before the court that Bhatnagar was instrumental in doing certain other acts which have a bearing on the present case.

Ratul Puri is facing investigation by the ED, CBI and the income tax department.

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