The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday informed the Apex Court that British citizen Christian Michel, accused in the Agusta Westland VVIP chopper scam, has tried to pass confidential papers to his counsel at the time of legal access. The ED filed an affidavit in the top court opposing Michel’s bail plea in the case.
“It is submitted that during the course of Michel’s custodial interrogation, the accused has tried to pass confidential papers to his counsel at the time of legal access,” said the ED.
It said that further investigation in the present case is still ongoing and many crucial documents are required to be collected across jurisdictions for the purpose of the investigation therefore it is strongly apprehended that he might try to tamper with the witnesses or evidence and obstruct the judicial process.
“Christian Michel James during his custodial interrogation undertook to provide the bank statements of his companies and the agreements and other relevant documents. He was also interrogated in Tihar Jail, New Delhi after taking permission from the Trial Court and during that time he also undertook to provide the said documents through the assistance of his lawyers, however, no information has been provided till date,” the affidavit added.
“Michel is a key accused in the instant case and is accused of having played a pivotal role in the entire case, being a middleman engaged by M/s Augusta Westland for obtaining confidential information regarding the procurement process of VVIP helicopters by the government of India and was admittedly paid Euro 42 million for influencing the contract in its favour under the guise of five contracts (two of them revised time and again) through two of his firms namely M/s Global Trade & Commerce Ltd. London and M/s Global Services FZE, Dubai, UAE with M/s Finmeccanica, M/s Agusta Westland, M/s Westland Helicopters UK etc. to legitimize the illicit commission/kickbacks on the procurement of VVIP Helicopters by Ministry of Defense, India which constitutes a grave economic offence,” ED added in its affidavit.
The investigating agency told the bench that the role of Michel is clearly established and the offence of money laundering is squarely made out against him. Earlier, the apex court had issued notices to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ED on the bail petitions of Michel in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam being probed by the agencies.
Advocate appearing for Michel had contended before the top court that the investigations are still not completed and he has undergone three years and six months as of now and before extradition, he was in Dubai custody.
Michel had challenged in the apex court the March 11 order of the Delhi High Court which had refused to grant him bail. In the High Court, ED and CBI had opposed the bail petition filed by Michel in connection with the VVIP chopper case.
CBI had said that he has a flight risk and it fears that because of the way the British government is helping him, he might flee and will never return. Michel had contended before the High Court that all the other accused in the case got bail in 60 days and he is the only one who hasn’t been given the bail and is suffering incarnation.
According to the bail petition, Michel said that as a bail condition he will be available to join the investigation and trial as and when required and has never sought to evade the process of law.
Earlier, the trial court had rejected his bail plea and had shown its displeasure with the British High Commission for sending a letter addressed to it stating that the medical condition of Michel and his pre-trial detention of two and half years may be taken into account when his bail application is considered.
Christian Michel James was extradited in 2018 after India won the extradition case in Dubai. Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the deal, was deported from the UAE and is currently in judicial custody.
The Dubai-based businessman Rajeev Saxena was extradited to India on January 31, 2019, in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore alleged scam relating to the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland.