Delhi HC dismisses bail of Christian Michel accused in AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam
On Friday, the Delhi High Court denied bail to Christian Michel, a key accused in the Rs.3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam in both Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases.
The main accused, Christian Michel James who is a middleman and British national in the VVIP chopper deal had filed a bail application with the court. The bail pleas were moved in July last year. He has been lodged in judicial custody at Tihar Jail. Various courts have rejected the bail petition of Michel on a number of occasions.
The scam pertains to the deal for the procurement of VVIP helicopters for high-level politicians. It was alleged that bribes were paid to middlemen and even politicians in the procurement deal. The Congress-led UPA government in 2010 signed the contract worth Rs.3,600 crores to procure 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters.
Christian Michel James was extradited from Dubai in December 2018 and arrested by the two central investigating agencies. The CBI has said that an estimated loss of about Rs.2,666 crore is due to the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010, for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.
A single-judge bench headed by Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri turned down both the bail applications filed by the accused through Advocate Aljo K Joseph. Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) D P Singh appeared for the Central Bureau of Investigation and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S V Raju along with Zoeb Hassan represented the Enforcement Directorate.
Special Public Prosecutor D P Singh appearing for the Central Bureau of Investigation had argued, “We fear that because of the way in which British government is helping him and he is connected right at the top. If he is given a passport in other names he might flee and it would be very difficult to bring him back.”
In his petition, James had argued that his extradition from the UAE to India was a quid pro quo for Indian authorities sending back Dubai’s Princess Latifa.
The CBI has opposed Michel’s bail saying that he is a British national not having roots in India and is a flight risk. It was also stated that he acted as a middleman, received money pursuant to certain contracts concerning the scam, and is not cooperating in the investigation, Live Law reported.
Opposing his bail, the ED asserted that by reducing the height of Choppers, Michel has interfered with crucial defence equipment needed in high-altitude areas like Ladakh. It further refuted the claim made by Michel’s counsel that he was exonerated by an Italian court of all charges and insisted that bail must be denied for misleading the court.
[With Inputs from IANS]
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