AgustaWestland: CBI Court allows ED to interrogate Christian Michel in prison

AgustaWestland: CBI Court allows ED to interrogate Christian Michel in prison

Aditi Singh

A Special CBI Court today allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland case,  in prison.

As per the order passed by CBI Judge Arvind Kumar, the ED is allowed to quiz Michel on March 13 and 14, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm. The presence of Michel’s counsel for a total of one hour during these sessions has also been allowed.

The ED’s plea to interrogate Michel was opposed on the ground that he has been in isolation for over 20 days, and was thus not in a condition to be questioned.

Rejecting all the objections, Judge Kumar said,

We are permitting to interrogate the accused…Otherwise accused has no say (in the application). It’s the prerogative of the Investigating agency.”

The Court today also directed the Tihar Jail authorities to produce the record and CCTV footage of Michel’s lodging over the last five days.

The direction by Judge Kumar came while hearing Michel’s application against his continued solitary confinement in Tihar Jail.

Earlier this month, the CBI Court had directed Tihar Jail Authorities to move Michel from a high-security solitary cell in its Jail No. 2. While directing the authorities to move Michel to another cell, the Court had left the jail authorities to decide on providing a ‘suitable cell’ for him.

The application, which is filed through Advocates Aljo K Joseph,  Vishnu Shankar and Sriram Parakkat, states that Michel is again lodged in a ‘High-Risk Cell’ in  Ward 6 of Tihar’s Jail No. 1.

Alleging mental and physical harassment, Michel sought to be shifted from the high-security cell to a normal cell to end his solitary confinement.

Michel, who was present in the Court today, alleged that he was being kept with Kashmiri separatist leaders and other murder convicts.

When Rakesh Asthana met me in Dubai…he threatened that he would make my life in jail hell. That’s what is happening. My next door inmate was Chotta Rajan. I don’t understand what crime I have committed to be put along with those who have killed…“, Michel remarked.

Appearing for the ED, Advocate NK Matta argued,

This application is an afterthought. They filed their application after we filed our application to interrogate him.  If they have issues in jail, they can write to the jail superintendent. They are directly moving court.

The allegations were denied by the jail authorities.

After hearing the parties, the Court directed for the production of the record and CCTV footage of Michel’s lodging in jail.

Christian Michel is accused of having entered into as many as 12 contracts with AgustaWestland to legitimize the illicit commission/kickbacks amounting to Euro 42.27 million received on the procurement of VVIP helicopters by the Government of India. Consequently, the ED had initiated proceedings in terms of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 against Michel.

Christian Michel was sent to judicial custody on January 5.

The matter will be next heard on March 14.

Read the orders:

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news