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Agusta Westland case: India’s apex court allows taxman to try accused under new black money law

BI India Bureau | May 21, 2019, 03.35PM IST

  • The Supreme Court stayed an order by the Delhi High Court that prevented the Income Tax (IT) Department from trying Gautam Khaitan - the main accused in the Agusta Westland chopper scam - under the Black Money Act of 2016.
  • The central government had asked the Delhi HC to allow the 2016 law to be applied to Khaitan’s case, which was filed in July 2015.
  • The 2016 law is much more stringent when it comes to dealing with previously undisclosed income and assets held abroad.
  • The punishment for conviction under this law for wilful evasion is enhanced, and tax authorities have more power when it comes to inspection and issue of summons.
The Supreme Court today stayed an order by the Delhi High Court that prevented the Income Tax (IT) Department from trying Gautam Khaitan - the main accused in the Agusta Westland chopper scam - under the Black Money Act of 2016.

The Delhi HC’s order, which was handed out on May 16, prohibited the IT Dept. from taking action against Khaitan - retroactively - under the law. Khaitan filed a petition against the government for trying to invoke the law, which came into effect in April 2016.

The central government had asked the Delhi HC to allow the 2016 law to be applied to Khaitan’s case, which was filed in July 2015.

The 2016 law is much more stringent when it comes to dealing with previously undisclosed income and assets held abroad. The punishment for conviction under this law for wilful evasion is enhanced, and tax authorities have more power when it comes to inspection and issue of summons.

As things stand, the Supreme Court’s decision requires Khaitan, a lawyer by profession, to submit a formal response to the central government’s allegations against him, within six weeks.

Khaitan had been investigated by a slew of regulators, including the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for his role in the ₹36 billion scam.

The Agusta Westland scam came to light in 2013, and pertains to the UPA government’s purchase of 12 helicopters to transport top officials.

The deal was cancelled in 2014 following allegations that Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland, along with other executives had bribed officials from the Indian Air Force to make the deal go through.


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