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Not Just Mallya, Modi - 36 Businessmen Facing Charges Have Fled, ED Tells Court

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New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday opposed the bail plea of Sushen Mohan Gupta, alleged defence agent arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, saying there was a likelihood of him fleeing the country - like 36 other businessmen who had criminal cases against them.

The ED told special judge Arvind Kumar that 36 businessmen, including Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, have fled the country in the recent past.

The probe agency's special public prosecutors D.P. Singh and N.K. Matta countered Gupta's claim that he had deep roots in society, saying, 'Mallya, Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Sandesara brothers (Sterling Biotech Ltd promoters) had deeper routes in the society yet they left the country. There are such 36 businessmen who fled from the country in the last few years.'

During the argument, ED's advocate Samvedna Verma told the court that the probe was at a crucial stage and the agency was trying to find out who was 'RG' referred in Gupta's diaries.

Verma also accused Gupta of influencing witnesses in the case and told the court that he also tried to destroy evidence.

The court reserved order on Gupta's bail application for April 20.

Gupta has sought the relief on the grounds that the agency has already completed the investigation and filed a chargesheet in the case. In his bail application, the accused told the court that the ED's contention of the flight risk can be rejected considering his past activities, where he joined the investigation as and when summoned.

When the Chowkidar Was Awake, and When He Slept

The ED's statement in court is not the first time the Centre or its agencies have publicly acknowledged that a large number of rich Indians facing criminal charges have managed to dodge investigation by leaving the country. However, it is unclear whether these admissions have had an impact on future such cases.

Earlier this year, in January, minister of state for finance Shiv Pratap Shukla told the Lok Sabha that 27 people who were facing charges for economic offences and loan default had fled the country in the last five years alone. Shukla also said that Interpol has been asked to issue red-corner notices against 20 of these people.

In March 2018, then minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar told parliament that 31 businessmen facing charges had fled. These included individuals facing charges from the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation. After this list was compiled, the Centre reportedly compiled a list of 91 people who would not be allowed to leave the country. According to the Hindustan Times, this included heads and owners of companies listed as wilful defaulters.

The ED's latest admission in the Supreme Court led to several jokes on Twitter, particularly taking aim at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent 'Main Bhi Chowkidar' campaign.

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