The Delhi High Court on Friday turned down the bail application filed by the alleged middleman of the Agusta Westland deal Christian James Michel in connection with 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal signed in 2010.
A single-judge bench of Justice Manoj Ohri, rejected the bail after hearing Advocate Aljo K Joseph (representing Michel) Advocate DP Singh (appearing for CBI ) and ASG SV Raju for the ED. A detailed order copy is expected to be released later in the day.
Michel had sought bail in connection with the cases registered against him by the CBI and the ED on the grounds that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concluded his detention arbitrary.
Special Public Prosecutor DP Singh appearing for the CBI argued expressed his fear that Michel might flee India as he is a British national with no roots in India.
“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. He (Michel) and his lawyers name people, they are naming people like Rakesh Asthana. We also fear that he might come out and say names unnecessarily and name and shame people. Most respectfully I’m submitting all those who were given bail be it Italian Marines or some other, they never came back.”
Advocate Aljo Joseph, appearing for Michel, argued that the lower court rejected Michel’s plea on the ground that he was a citizen of the United Kingdom and had no roots in India, but it should not be the way for denying bail.
He further added that Michel has only been charged with sections 8 & 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act where the maximum punishment is five year’s imprisonment. According to Joseph, Michel can apply for bail as per section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Joseph submitted that his client, Michel was brought to India in December 2018, eight months after Princess Sheikh Latifa bint Mohammad al-Maktoum, runaway daughter of Dubai’s ruler was sent back to the UAE by India. He was brought to India in exchange of Princess Latifa.
Advocate Singh rubbished the claim that Michel was brought to India in exchange of Princess Latifa and said that it was nothing but an effort to strain the relationship between India and the UAE.
He also criticised the intervention of the United Nation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and claimed that the intervention is maligning the image of the Government of India.
Singh argued that Michel is not eligible for bail under Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure as he was also charged with Section 467 of the Indian Penal Code which carries a life sentence by the agencies.
The AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam is a corruption case where it has been alleged that bribes were paid to “middlemen”, when India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters built by Italian defence manufacturing giant Finmeccanica at an estimated cost of ₹3,600 crore.
A contract was signed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in February 2010, to purchase 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters. The VVIP choppers were supposed to be used by the President of India, the Prime Minister and other high level officials.
The scam came into light in 2012 when it was discovered that several politicians and bureaucrats accepted bribes to finalise the deal. Bruno Spagnolini, the CEO of AgustaWestland was arrested by the Italian authorities for bribing middlemen to secure a deal with the Indian Air Force (IAF).