VVIP chopper deal: ED searches multiple cities; freezes shares

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Initiating fresh action in the VVIP choppers deal money laundering probe case, the ED Monday conducted searches in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad on at least 10 premises of some involved firms and froze shares worth over Rs 86 crore kept by them in foreign shores.

Officials said the agency seized a number of documents during the searches from the premises of the firms and entities brought under the action as they were "connected" to the case.

During the searches, conducted under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the agency issued orders to freeze shares of certain firms worth Rs 86.07 crore that are located in Dubai, Mauritius and Singapore.

The agency had recently filed a fresh charge sheet in the case naming British national and alleged middlemen in the deal Christian Michel James as part of its probe.

The ED had registered a PMLA case in this regard in 2014 and named 21 people, including Tyagi, in its FIR.

It had also arrested Delhi-based businessman Gautam Khaitan in the case, who is out on bail now.

It had earlier submitted that Khaitan was on the board of Aeromatrix, a Chandigarh-based company that was allegedly a front firm for the financial dealings in the chopper deal.

On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.

The ED and the CBI had issued Letters Rogatory (judicial requests) to multiple countries to gather more leads and evidences in this case.

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