Court allows ED to quiz Christian Michel

New Delhi: 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 ED’s custody for seven days after the probe agency arrested him in the case.

ED’s counsel and special public prosecutor D.P. Singh told the court that Michel’s custody is required to confront the accused with some witnesses.

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.

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

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.

Michel’s lawyer Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos from Italy told IANS, “Michel met CBI special Director Rakesh Asthana and Indian representative on June 2 in Dubai along with the Law Ministry authorities of UAE.”

She said that the meeting was held in complete frankness with Michel.

Sharing the minutes of the meeting of Michel with Indian representative, she said, “Michel was told to implicate AP and Madam (referring to Congress leader Ahmed Patel and Sonia Gandhi). Michel felt that there was a panicked sense of urgency. Even many threats were issued and a discussion was held on how unpleasant Indian jails were.”

“Michel was also told that none of his friends would be able to help him if he did not sign a statement,” she said.

Anjos further said that Michel was told that if he signed a statement, he would not be arrested and all cases against him would be dropped and the Red Corner Notice against him would be removed.

“To this Michel said that he would not sign a statement prepared by them (Indian representative) but would work with his lawyers over the next few days to prepare his statement and send it to them by Tuesday evening (June 5).

“But after all the threats Michel was surprised when they accepted his proposal and the meeting ended at approximately 11 o’clock on Saturday evening (June 2). And his statement was delivered on Wednesday morning (June 6) at 10 a.m. to lawyers for onward transmission

“On June 7, Michel was informed that his statement was unacceptable and the Indian party would move ahead with extradition,” she said.

However, the CBI had earlier claimed it hadn’t questioned Michel in the UAE.

In its chargesheet, 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 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.