Chopper deal middleman in CBI custody

NEW DELHI: British national Christian Michel James, the middleman wanted in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, was on Wednesday remanded for five days in CBI custody by a Delhi court, which rejected the agency’s plea for 14 days’ custody.
Special Judge Arvind Kumar allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to quiz the middleman till December 10.
“The CBI is seeking police remand of 14 days for thorough interrogation and in order to unearth the deep-rooted conspiracy and the role of the other accused persons and to
confront the accused with the documents.
“Keeping in view the facts and circumstances, submissions made by the parties, I deem it fit to grant five days police remand of the accused,” Judge Kumar said.
In its remand application, the CBI told the court that an amount of 42.27 million euros was paid by the Westland Group of Companies to the firms of Michel as “kickbacks/bribe without undertaking any work against the receipt of such amount”.
The agency through its lawyer said that custodial interrogation of Christian Michel was needed “to unearth the deep rooted conspiracy and to identify his accomplices including the IAF officials, bureaucrats and politicians who influenced the decisions” which made AgustaWestland eligible to participate in the bidding process and “ultimately bag it”.
Special Public Prosecutor D P Singh told the court that James had got classified material and the agency needed to interrogate him to know who were the officers involved in supplying these classified documents to him.
The prosecutor also told the court that they have recovered two handwritten notes related to bribe money — including one written by James himself in which he mentions about his 5 per cent commission to fix the deal.
The prosecutor informed the court that James had entered into as many as 12 contracts with AugustaWestland through two of his firms — Global Trade and Commerce Ltd, London, and Global Services FZE, Dubai UAE — with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland and Westland Helicopters UK to legitimise the illicit commission on the procurement of VVIP Helicopters by the Indian Defence Ministry.
“We need to confront him with the evidence. We have to find the money trail and the people involved,” the prosecutor said.
Michel’s counsel Aljo K Joseph vehemently opposed the remand application saying there was no need for police custody and that none of the documents had been produced in any international court.
Michel was present at the court after he was extradited to India on Tuesday night from the United Arab Emirates. A CBI team escorted him to India in a special plane.
Michel’s counsel Joseph and Vishnu Sankar moved bail application assuring that he will follow every condition imposed by the court if released on bail.
The defence counsel told the court that the probe agency had already seized the documents related to the case and investigation was almost complete in the case.
Controversy: A controversy erupted on Wednesday after a Congress activist appeared as a counsel for British national Christian Michel in a CBI court.
The row started after Suresh Nakhua, spokesperson of the BJP’s Mumbai unit, tweeted that Aljo K Joseph, who appeared for the Michel, was national incharge of the legal department of Indian Youth Congress.
“Any guesses who is lawyer for Christian Michel? Mr Aljo K Joseph, National incharge, legal department, Indian Youth Congress (Youth wing of Cong led by out on bail Rahul Gandhi),” he tweeted.
Soon after, In-charge of BJP’s national Information and Technology department Amit Malviya tweeted: “Meet the Congressman who is going to defend AgustaWestland ‘middleman’ Christian Michel… Does it get more obvious than that?.”
Reacting to it, Joseph accepted that he was associated with the Congress but clarified that he appeared in the case in his personal and professional capacity.
“I am an advocate and appeared in my personal capacity. If somebody asks me to appear on his behalf, I have discharged only my duty as a lawyer. This has nothing to do with Congress. My relationship with Congress is separate and my professional relation is separate,” Joseph said. — IANS