The CBI Special Court on Monday has sent alleged fugitive middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, Christian Michel, to 5 more days of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) remand.
According to reports, the CBI had produced Christian Michel in the special CBI court to seek a further extension of nine days of his custody as his five-day custody with the CBI was supposed to end today. On December 5, the Patiala House Court had granted a five-day custody of Michel to the CBI.
Seeking an extension of Michel’s custody, CBI said that Michel was uncooperative and evasive and said he did not even co-operate with Italian investigation pertaining to the case.
However, Christian Michel’s lawyer and former Indian Youth Congress member Aljo K Joseph appeared before the court and argued that there is no need of police custody of Christian Michel anymore. He went on to say that there was no incriminating evidence against Christian Michel relating to the AgustaWestland scam and he has written to British High Commission regarding the way he is being treated by the CBI.
CBI rejected all the allegations and said all human rights aspects are being taken care of with regards to the arrest of Christian Michel. CBI has also moved an application to collect handwriting specimen of Michel.
Aljo K Joseph, the counsel representing Christian Michel was caught up in controversy after it was found that the lawyer has been a member of Congress party, further raising apprehensions about the involvement of Congress’s first family in the VVIP helicopter scam. After severe embarrassment, Congress party had expelled him from the party.
Christian Michel was brought to India late on Tuesday night after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj discussed the extradition with her counterpart in the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Dubai. The CBI has taken custody of the middleman after his extradition and has credited National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval for the success of the operation.
Christian Michel is accused of money laundering, bribery, and fraud in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore worth AgustaWestland scam. It is believed that not only did he pay kickbacks to politicians, officers and agents but also involved certain celebrity journalists to swing the deal.
India had signed a deal in 2010 to buy 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the service of the Prime Minister, the President and other VVIPs. It is alleged that some politicians and public servants had abused their official positions to reduce the service ceiling of the VVIPs helicopter from 6000 metres to 4500 metres to make AgustaWestland eligible for the contract and had awarded the contract for an amount of Euro 556.262 million in 2010.