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AgustaWestland Chopper Scam: 'Middleman' Christian Michel sent to five-day CBI custody

Michel, 54, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on a Gulfstream jet at 10.35 pm on Tuesday night after which he was arrested by the CBI in connection with the case.

India TV News Desk India TV News Desk
New Delhi Updated on: December 05, 2018 23:40 IST
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Image Source : ANI

Christian Michel

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Court on Wednesday sent Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, to five-day CBI custody.

"The investigation is going on, we need his (Christian Michel) custody as money was transferred in two Dubai based accounts," said the agency.

"We need his police custody to confront him with some important documents," CBI Counsel Advocate DP Singh said before the CBI Special Court.

After the court's decision, government sources said that the Centre is ready to "provide consular access to UK High Commission for Christian Michel."

"We are ready to provide consular access to UK High Commission for Christian Michel. We have no objections. Yet until now UK High Commission has not approached the MEA for the same. Due process will have to be followed and CBI will have no objections," news agency ANI quoted government as saying.

"Our staff continue to support family of a British man following his detention in UAE. We're in contact with his family and Emirati authorities regarding his case and are urgently seeking info from Indian authorities on his circumstances,” said British High Commission. 

On Wednesday, security was tightened at the Patiala House court complex where Michel was produced. He was brought to India late on Tuesday night following his extradition by the UAE in connection with the case.

Around 15-20 personnel of the CRPF and 30 Delhi Police officials were deputed in the court complex as well as outside several of its gates, said one of the police officials. The police force, included the presence of women officials.

Michel, 54, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on a Gulfstream jet at 10.35 pm on Tuesday night after which he was arrested by the CBI in connection with the case.

Meanwhile, Michel has moved a bail plea. Court kept this bail plea pending for next hearing. The court also allowed his counsel one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening for consultancy.

The extradition comes as a major boost to the Indian agencies investigating the bribery angle in the contract.

In January, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing Michel. Both ED and CBI had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused. 

Last year, a Red Corner Notice (RCN) was issued against Michel by the Interpol on a request by the CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians -- Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke -- for their role in the case.

According to the Indian investigative agencies, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013. 

Earlier, the ED officials had said that bribes to Michel were paid through a web of companies located abroad and in India on the pretext of payment for consultancy work. Michel also used his Dubai-based firm Global Services FZE as a conduit for receiving money. 

A CBI chargesheet in the case also named four Indians -- former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, then Vice Chief of the Air Staff J.S. Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan. 

The chargesheet mentioned Khaitan as the "brain" behind the deal.

Others named in the chargesheet included Giuseppe Orsi, the former chief of Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of AgustaWestland, apart from middlemen Michel, Haschke and Gerosa. 

On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying the VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract.

Meanwhile, in another related but different development, lawyer of Christian Michel, Aljo K Joseph was on Wednesday spotted meeting Congress General Secretary Deepak Babaria at Congress Headquarters in Delhi.

"I'm an actively practicing advocate. I appeared for him (Christian Michel) in my professional capacity. If somebody asks me to appear on behalf of a client...I've only discharged my duty as a lawyer. It has nothing to do with Congress," he said.

"My relation with Congress is separate, my profession is separate. One of my friends, who was having some Dubai connections, through him the lawyer in Italy had requested it. So I was just helping in appearing and assisting him in this matter," Joseph added.

When asked what position he holds in the Congress party, Joseph said, "I am the national incharge for Indian Youth Congress legal department."

PM Modi attacks Congress over Christian Michel, says he will reveal secrets

Boasting his government's success in the extradition of Christian Michel Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the British national, who has taken UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's name, will spill the beans on the deal during the UPA government's tenure.

He also said that the government succeeded in the Supreme Court when it said the government had all the right to reassess the past income tax returns of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, who have been claiming that their assessment is "final" after doing "loot". "Let us see, how long will you escape (in the case)," he said.

Addressing an election meeting, the Prime Minister used the "namdaar" jibe and said those leaders, whose four generations ruled the country, had to knock the doors of court and were out on bail and would not be spared.

"You must have read in today's newspapers about VVIP helicopter scam of thousands of crore. You would be aware about a letter of Madam Sonia Gandhi. When we came to power to find out the files. We kept searching for it and finally found a 'razdar' (one who knows all secrets). 

"He was a middleman of England, who was living in Dubai. He used to serve the friends of 'namdaar' in Dubai. The government has brought him to India. This 'razdar' will reveal the secrets. Don't know where and how far it will go," he said.

Commenting on AgustaWestland case, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that his party will come out clean on this.  

WATCH VIDEO: Aaj Ki Baat with Rajat Sharma | December 5, 2018

(With inputs from agencies)

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