Seeking extension of Michel's police custody by nine days, the agency contended that he was "not cooperating" in the investigation and was giving "evasive" answers and when he finds himself in problem, he gets out of it by denying it.
Christian Michel James, alleged middleman chargesheeted and arrested in the graft-tainted AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, was allowed by a Delhi court on Monday to be interrogated further by the CBI in its custody for five more days. 57-year-old Michel was produced before Special Judge Arvind Kumar on the expiry of his five-day CBI remand during which he was confronted with various documents relating to the case. He will be produced again before the court on December 15. Seeking extension of Michel’s police custody by nine days, the agency contended that he was “not cooperating” in the investigation and was giving “evasive” answers and when he finds himself in problem, he gets out of it by denying it.
It contended that Michel was required to be confronted with some witnesses to unearth the deep rooted conspiracy and to identify his accomplices including the IAF officials, bureaucrats and politicians. Prosecutor D P Singh, appearing for CBI, argued that Michel was being “tutored” by his advocates during their visitations at the agency’s office and the court’s order allowing the lawyers to meet the accused twice a day was hampering their interrogation. His counsel denied the allegation and said he was not being tutored. Advocate Aljo K Joseph, appearing for Michel, said his police custody was not required any further and no incriminating evidence was shown to him during the interrogation.
When the defence counsel alleged that Michel was being “tortured”, CBI prosecutor objected to the choice of the word and said the advocate was saying this only to create headlines in the media, and the accused was treated with “utmost respect”. Joseph said he sent a mail to the British High Commission on Saturday regarding an officer of the agency. He added that nothing wrong has been found on the part of the accused by the Italian court, which was opposed by the prosecutor. The prosecutor contended that Michel’s custody was required as he has to be confronted with incriminating material and other accused in the case. Singh said documents have been received from five countries pursuant to the Letter of Request sent to these nations.
The judge, while remanding Michel to five-day in CBI custody, said he should be medically examined as per rules. At the outset, Michel withdrew his earlier bail plea and filed fresh detailed bail application which would be heard later. Michel, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, was brought to India on the night of December 4, following his extradition by the UAE in connection with the case and the next day, he was produced before the court which had allowed his five-day custodial interrogation by the CBI. On Monday, CBI also sought permission to take specimen signatures of the accused and the court listed it for hearing tomorrow after Michel’s counsel said he would file a reply to it. Michel’s counsel submitted that Michel’s special power of attorney Santrolli Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos wants to meet her once to provide some documents and she be allowed to do so.
The plea was opposed by the CBI after which the court kept the application pending saying it could be heard only when she is present before it and even her ‘vakalatnama’ was not on record. CBI prosecutor said the foreign lawyer was always in news for her controversial statements given to Press and otherwise. During the hearing, CBI counsel said Michel may be allowed legal assistance by lawyer only once a day as it causes disturbance in the interrogation. His counsel opposed it. The court then allowed the defence counsel to meet Michel for 30 minutes each twice a day at CBI office. Security was tightened at the Patiala House court complex hours before the production of Michel. The court had earlier asked the CBI to provide all relevant documents including the charge sheet to Michel. He had landed in India on the night of December 4 and was arrested by the CBI.
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 notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him. The CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (about 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.
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. 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. Anglo-Italian company, AgustaWestland, is also among the accused.