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Christian Michel sent to 5-day CBI custody by court in VVIP chopper case

PTI new delhi India
Updated: 05-12-2018 20:21 IST

Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman chargesheeted and extradited to India in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, was allowed to be interrogated in the CBI custody for five days by a Delhi court on Wednesday.

He was produced before a special court by CBI which had arrested him late Tuesday on his arrival from Dubai.

Michel, a national of the United Kingdom, will again be produced in the court on December 10.

CBI said the 57-year-old Michel was required for custodial interrogation to unearth the "deep rooted conspiracy" and the money trail connected with the alleged scam in the deal.

His custody was required to identify his accomplices including the IAF officials, bureaucrats and politicians, who were influenced/instrumental in changing the decisions, which made Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland eligible to participate in the biding process and ultimately bagged it, the CBI prosecutor argued.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar was informed by the CBI that the investigation has revealed that Michel had entered into 12 contracts through two of his firms -- Global Trade and Commerce Ltd, London and Global Services FZE, Dubai, UAE -- with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Westland Helicopters, UK and so on.

CBI prosecutor D P Singh argued this was done by Michel to legitimise the illicit commission on the procurement of VVIP Helicopters by the Ministry of Defence.

He said the accused has to be interrogated thoroughly for which his 14 days custody was required. However, the judge in the order said he "deem it fit to grant five days police custody."

The court rejected the oral prayer of Michel's counsel that a lawyer be permitted to be present at all times during his interrogation.

"It is not permitted under the law," the judge said.

The court, however, allowed the advocate to meet him for legal assistance for two hours every day during his CBI custody.

It asked the CBI to provide all relevant documents including the charge sheet to Michel.

The court also asked the the CBI to get the accused medically examined as per rules.

While seeking custodial remand of Michel, the CBI prosecutor contended that "an amount of 42.27 million Euro was paid by the Westland Group companies to the firms of accused Christian Michel James as kickbacks/ bribe without undertaking any work against the receipt of such amount".

He said number of documents, including classified information, are to be confronted to Michel and CBI has to find out the role and identity of other accused persons.

CBI's plea was opposed by the Michel's advocates, Aljo K Joseph and Vishnu Shankaran, who said they have not yet received any documents from the agency and the accused may be remanded to judicial custody.

Joseph said the documents which CBI was placing before the court have been brought for the first time today and such material was not placed before the international courts.

A bail plea was also moved on behalf of Michel but the court has kept it for hearing on another day after his counsel said he will press for the relief later.

After the hearing concluded, the CBI prosecutor sought change in date for Michel's production as he has to go to Mumbai in liquor baron Vijay Mallya's case.

The judge said it would not be appropriate to change the date now as it was pronounced in the open court.

Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI. Both the agencies have notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him.

Michel had denied the charges.

The CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of 398.21 million Euro (approximately Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

The money was nothing but "kickbacks" paid by the firm to execute the 12 helicopters deal in favour of the firm in the "guise of" genuine transactions for performing multiple work contracts in the country, according to the charge sheet.

On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italy-based 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 CBI on September 1, 2017, had filed a charge sheet in the case in which Michel was named as one of the accused.

Former IAF Chief S P Tyagi was also chargesheeted by the CBI in a Delhi Court along with nine others in connection with a bribery case in the VVIP chopper deal.

Tyagi (73) is the first chief of the Indian Air Force to be chargesheeted in a corruption or a criminal case by the CBI and he has denied all charges against him.

Besides him, the agency has also chargesheeted retired Air Marshal J S Gujral along with eight others, including five foreign nationals, in the charge sheet filed before the Special CBI Judge.

AgustaWestland, is also one of the accused.

Others named in the charge sheet are -- Tyagi's cousin Sanjeev alias Julie, advocate Gautam Khaitan, alleged European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel, Guido Haschke, former AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini and former Finmeccanica Chairman Giuseppe Orsi.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)