A Delhi court Wednesday reserved order on bail plea of alleged AgustaWestland chopper deal middleman Christian Michel, and scheduled to pass the order on February 16.
Earlier today, CBI opposed Michel’s bail plea, stating, “This court has taken cognizance in both ED and CBI chargesheet. Once the cognizance has taken then accused cannot ask for statutory bail.”
What has happened so far with Christian Michel?
Ever since his extradition from the UAE on December 4, Michel has been in CBI and ED custody separately. Last month, Special Judge Arvind Kumar had sent Michel to judicial custody till February 26. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) in its remand application had stated that Michel had received Euro 24.25 million from Augusta Westland deal and was involved in other defence deals as well where he received money.
“The accused is a British Citizen and has no roots in India. There is every likelihood that he may abscond from India and evade the process of law, especially in the light of past conduct. He has been brought before this court through rigorous extradition proceedings. His fleeing away from justice cannot be ruled out,” the remand application submitted through special public prosecutor D P Singh said.
Last month, January 11, the British High Commission in India was granted consular access to Michel. “Our staff are supporting a British man who is detained in India, and have visited him to check his welfare,” ANI quoted the High Commission as saying.
Who is Rajiv Saxena?
Another key-accused, Dubai-based businessman Rajiv Saxena was deported to India from UAE on January 30 and was sent to judicial custody till February 18 on Tuesday. The ED informed the court that it no longer required further custody of Rajiv.
Rajiv’s lawyers in India, Geeta Luthra and Shivani Luthra Lohiya, said he was taken away from his home by UAE authorities and deported to India. He is one of the accused named in the chargesheet filed by ED in the case.
In July 2017, the ED arrested Rajiv’s wife Shivani in connection with its probe into alleged money laundering in the deal.
The ED prosecution complaint against Shivani, which is considered equivalent to a chargesheet, stated that she and Rajiv were partners and directors in UHY Saxena and Matrix Holdings Ltd through which “proceeds of crime were routed” and used to buy immovable properties and shares.
The ED also claimed that the two companies received “proceeds of crime” in their respective Dubai bank accounts from a Mauritius-based company, Interstellar Technologies Ltd, one of many companies floated to launder kickbacks in the deal.
The background of the case
In the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland money laundering case Michel and Rajiv have been named in the chargesheet along with former AgustaWestland and Finmeccanica directors Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, former Air Force chief SP Tyagi and Rajeev’s wife Shivani.
The CBI claims that Michel entered into 12 contracts through two of his firms, Global Trade & 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 Ministry of Defence”.
Michel is one of the three middlemen — the two others Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa — being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate in the case.
The Indian government, last month, had moved the Delhi High Court seeking a permanent injunction order to restrain AgustaWestland from continuing with the arbitration process due to the ongoing criminal cases before the trial court. The company had contended that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) cannot unilaterally freeze payments in the Rs 3,600-crore deal. However, the high court had declined to give any interim order to stay the proceedings before the Arbitration tribunal, initiated by the AgustaWestland International Limited. Agusta had invoked the arbitration process after the government cancelled the scam-tainted helicopter deal. Italy and India are separately probing allegations that AgustaWestland paid bribes to win the 2010 deal for VVIP helicopters.