Mauritius-based Interstellar Technologies received kickbacks for “various defence deals“, the Enforcement Directorate said in a supplementary charge sheet in the VVIP chopper deal in May 2019. ED alleged that Interstellar Technologies received ₹12.4 million as kickbacks for the chopper deal from IDS, Tunisia.
The submissions assume significance in the light of the latest allegations by French portal Mediapart that Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of Rafale fighter aircraft, paid bribes to Interstellar Technologies.
“Since kickbacks from the other defence deals are not a subject matter of the present investigation, it has not been incorporated in this charge sheet,” the ED told the court in 2019, adding, “separate investigations would be undertaken on other defence deals.”
ED alleged that kickbacks from AgustaWestland and other defence deals were placed in the bank accounts of Interstellar Technologies, “a company controlled by Sushen Mohan Gupta, and the accounts of Rajiv Saxena”, ED alleged in 2019. Out of the said kickbacks, “approximately ₹5.39 million and $1.97 million (₹55.83 crore) have been laundered by Gupta”, it alleged.
While ED has charge sheeted Gupta for money laundering, he is not an accused in the case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation. On the other hand, Rajiv Saxena, an accused-turned-approver in ED’s case was charged by CBI in September 2020. ED’s plea seeking to withdraw Saxena’s approver status, meanwhile, is pending in the Supreme Court. Significantly, two years after 2019, CBI and ED have consistently maintained before courts that it was Saxena who received ₹12.40 million in the account of Interstellar from AgustaWestland.
ED’s 2019 charge sheet says, “kickbacks from AgustaWestland and other defence deals are parked in Interstellar, a company controlled by Gupta, and bank accounts of Rajiv Saxena.” ED alleges defence commissions were routed through Saxena as per directions of Gupta who worked in tandem with co-accused advocate Gautam Khaitan. Gupta transferred funds available to him to his foreign companies or through his associates like Saxena in lieu of cash received in India from his friends and business associates which were then used for asset creation, ED alleged in its May 2019 charge sheet.
Gupta and Saxena had business dealings, ED claimed. “There was no animosity till 2016 as can be inferred from emails exchanged between the two, volume of transactions undertaken,” ED said.
Saxena was deported from Dubai, in January 2019, and ED arrested Gupta based on Saxena’s ‘disclosures’ two months later. ED claims Saxena ‘suo motu’ tendered two diaries and hard copies of loose sheets, documents and a pen drive containing sensitive information. ED alleges Saxena said that the documents belonged to Gupta. However, Gupta alleged that the pen drive was Saxena’s creation.
“The pen drive was owned by and belonged to Sushen Mohan Gupta stands proved beyond doubt on the basis of forensic examination,” ED contended. “Sushen was not only bribing officials in India but he was also paying commissions to persons outside India related to the defence deals,” it alleged.
“Sushen has directly received proceeds of crime which originated from AgustaWestland and further laundered it by way of transferring such funds to various foreign entities…In lieu of such transfers he has received cash in India which he has integrated in the system by way spending on his personal expenditure, creation of assets and for payments of kickbacks to government officials. The proceeds of crime which he has directly received from the accounts of Interstellar is approximately ₹5.39 million and $1.97 million,” ED alleged in its charge sheet.
CBI in its September 2020 charge sheet, however, rubbished Saxena’s claims that he had no association with Interstellar. “Rajiv Saxena intentionally acquired share holdings and also became director of Interstellar. He conspired with Gautam Khaitan, Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke, Christian Michel James and others in furtherance of the same facilitated in routing kickbacks/commission paid by AgustaWestland through IDS Tunisia and also through Interstellar Technologies,” the CBI alleged in its charge sheet. “It is clearly established that Rajiv Saxena is beneficial owner and director of Interstellar, since June 20, 2000,” CBI alleged in its charge sheet. Interstellar was a “shell company incorporated and intentionally used for laundering/routing kickbacks/commission paid by AgustaWestland through another company, IDS Tunisia,” CBI alleged. “Interstellar was removed/wound up from Registrar of Companies, Mauritius, immediately after registration of instant CBI case in March 2013,” it contended.
“Saxena in collusion with Gautam Khaitan received ₹12.40 million in the account of Interstellar Technologies from AgustaWestland, which was further routed/laundered in collusion with Deepak Goyal and other accused persons for paying the middleman and suspected public servants,” the CBI charge sheet alleged. Saxena is also “suspected to have routed other kickbacks/commission paid by AgustaWestland through other channels for which further investigation is continuing,” CBI claimed. It has described Saxena as the director of Interstellar.
Seeking to discredit Saxena’s disclosures, ED last year informed a local court that Saxena was “playing one agency against the other”.