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Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar yesterday dismissed the bail plea by British businessman and alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland case, Christian Michel.
Given the overall facts and circumstances, serious nature of the allegations, gravity of offence, crucial stage of investigation and conduct of Michel, the Court held that it was not a fit case for grant of bail.
The Court observed that Michel had not joined the investigation on his own and appeared before the Court only after being extradited from Dubai.
It further added that the proceedings before the Italian Court would have no bearing on the present case as the Italian proceedings pertained to a different issue of International bribery and tax fraud and Michel was not even a party to those proceedings.
In his applications filed through advocates Aljo K Joseph, Sriram Parakkat and MS Vishnu Shankar, Michel had submitted that he had undergone almost 600 hours of custodial interrogation by both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and had spent 375 days in custody, including the 254 days spent in an Indian jail.
However, to date, no particular material had been produced before the Court to substantiate the allegations leveled against Michel, it was claimed.
Michel had also contended that the Italian Court had, in fact, exonerated him of all charges.
Therefore, arguing that the investigation against him was over and no useful purpose would be served by keeping him in further incarceration, Michel had sought bail under Section 437/439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
Michel’s bail plea was opposed by the CBI and the ED. The agencies, represented by Special Public Prosecutor DP Singh, argued that Christian Michel was the “key link to unearth the modus operandi” in the AgustaWestland case.
Stating that Michel was a British national having no roots on India, the agencies apprehended that if released on bail, Michel would flee from the country and would not be available for investigation/trial.
The agencies informed the Court that the investigation in the case was at a crucial stage and releasing the accused at this stage could result in him tampering with evidence or evading the process of law.
The ED added that Michel has remained evasive and non-cooperative during the investigation. Iterating that the investigation to ascertain the money trail was ongoing, the ED claimed that Michel was required to be confronted with certain witnesses/suspects to take the investigation to its end. ED also informed the Court that it has received “voluminous” documents from several countries in response to the letters of rogatory sent out in the case.
The CBI also informed the Court that it would be filing a supplementary chargesheet in the case.
Christian Michel is accused of having entered into as many as twelve contracts with AgustaWestland to legitimize the illicit commission/kickbacks amounting to 42.27 Euro million received on the procurement of VVIP helicopters by the Government of India.
After being extradited to India from Dubai, Michel was produced before the CBI Court on December 5 and sent to CBI custody for five days. On subsequent hearings, the custody was extended for another five days, and then for four more days. On December 22, he was sent to seven days’ ED custody by the CBI Court.
Christian Michel was sent to judicial custody on January 5.