AgustaWestland case: Court dismisses Michel's bail plea

AgustaWestland case: Court dismisses Michel's bail plea

Christian Michel

A Delhi court on Saturday dismissed a bail plea by Christian Michel James, an extradited middleman in cases registered by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate in AgustaWestland scam related to purchase of 12 VVIP Helicopter.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar rejected the applications by the 58-year-old British national, saying this was not a fit case to grant bail as because of serious nature of accusations, gravity of the offence, crucial stage of investigation and overall conduct of the accused.

The court took into consideration the contention made by the CBI and the ED that the accused, being a “highly linked” person may influence the witnesses to be examined and tamper with the evidence. Besides, it said he was a British, having no roots in the country. “The NBWs were issued against him on September 24, 2015 and he was arrested in Dubai and extradited to India on December 4, 2018,” it said.

“It is not that the accused had himself joined the investigation in India or appeared before this court on his own. The accused did not join the investigation in Italy. He cannot claim parity with the other accused due to his conduct,” the CBI said, adding all other accused S P Tyagi, Gautam Khaitan and Sanjeev Tyagi were Indian citizens.

The Enforcement Directorate too opposed his bail plea, saying the accused, engaged as consultant was paid a huge bribe of Euro 42.27 million by M/s AgustaWestland, which was passed on to the officers of the Indian Air Force, Ministry of Defence bureaucrats, politicians and family in India for showing favour to the VVIP helicopter deal. It also contended the accused “enjoyed a close proximity and influence with highly-placed persons”. In light of his past conduct, there was a grave apprehension that he may flee from justice.

The accused, for his part, contended he has been in custody for more than 375 days during the extradition proceedings and after being brought to India. After having interrogated for about 600 hours by the CBI and ED, the investigation was still going on despite lapse of five years, his counsel contended. They said investigation qua him has been over, though 38 accused have been impleaded, and no useful purpose would be served in keeping him incarcerated.

He also pointed out an Italy court had on December 30, 2014 acquitted the accused who faced proceedings in the same case. The acquittal order has been affirmed by the apex court over there on May 22, 2019. Besides, he cited the high blood pressure and gastro infection for enlarging him on bail.

The ED further submitted an agreement of May 8, 2011 was recovered, showing the accused had agreed to reduce the amount from Euro 42.27 to 30 million for the “team” to honour the commission to the “family” in full. It said the accused, who was a frequent visitor here, left the country on February 12, 2013, since his role in the deal became public. The CBI and ED also submitted that the corruption and money laundering cases registered cannot be compared with the case of international bribery and tax fraud tried in an Italian court.