Court allows ED to quiz Christian Michel

Court allows ED to quiz Christian Michel
Christian Michel (File)
New Delhi, Dec 22 (IANS) | Publish Date: 12/22/2018 12:20:41 PM IST

A Delhi court on Saturday allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to quiz British national Christian Michel, the middleman accused in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, for seven days.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar sent Michel to the ED’s custody for seven days after the probe agency arrested him in the case.

The court observed that Michel was required for custodial interrogation to unearth how the tainted money was routed and laundered; the involvement of the co-accused; the money trail; and to confront him with the voluminous documents collected in the case. ED’s counsel and special public prosecutor D.P. Singh told the court that Michel’s custody is also required to confront him with some witnesses.

The ED also told the court it has to probe the money laundering aspect as the money has not come through official channels but through hawala transactions.

The ED submitted that kickbacks were paid by AgustaWestland through two channels. One channel was handled by middleman Christian Michel James and his associates while the second was handled by Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke. 

“Lawyer Gautam Khaitan, who is also named as an accused in the charge sheet, was the mastermind behind laundering of the proceeds of crime in the second channel. Investigation has revealed crucial links between Michel, Haschke, Gerosa and Khaitan,” the ED told the court. 

Investigations are on to unearth the role of the accused involved in the money laundering case.

The ED told the court that Michel transferred the money through his aides to the desired recipients.

“Custodial interrogation of Michel is required to unearth how the kickbacks were routed and laundered, where the said proceeds of crime are parked and how or by whom the said tainted money was placed, layered and integrated into the system.

“Michel’s custody is required to unearth the deep rooted conspiracy and identification of his accomplices, including the IAF officials, bureaucrats and politicians who gained undue advantage,” the ED said. 

Michel’s counsel Aljo K. Joseph and Vishnu Sankar opposed the plea.

The defence counsel said that the ED’s plea seeking custody of the accused is malafide. The counsel told the court that the ED could have moved an application to question him during the period when he was in the CBI’s custody or he could be interrogated in the jail premises.

The counsel added that all the documents have already been collected by the ED and that no custodial remand should be granted to the probe agency. Michel was extradited to India on December 4 from the United Arab Emirates. 

He is one of the three middlemen being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED in the VVIP chopper deal.

In January, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities seeking extradition of Michel. Both the ED and the CBI had filed charge-sheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused.

In its charge sheet, the CBI had named former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, then IAF Vice Chief J.S. Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan as the four Indians involved in the scam.

Others named in the charge-sheet 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.

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