The CBI on Wednesday told a Delhi court that Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore Agusta Westland VVIP chopper deal, had visited India “300 times” between 1996 and early-2013, but did not come even once after arriving here the day a co-accused was arrested in Italy on February 12, 2013.
The agency made these submissions while opposing Michel’s bail application in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Arvind Kumar.
The court sent Michel to judicial custody at the end of 14-day police remand.
“Ever since his role in the deal became public, he (Michel) left India on February 12, 2013 and never returned. It is pertinent to mention that Guiseppe Orsi (co-accused) was arrested by Italian authorities on 12.2.2013. Accused James arrived in India the same day, and on coming to know of the arrest, left India,” CBI’s counsel D P Singh said.
Singh submitted, “Why was he (Michel) running from law if he was such a clean man…His reach is wide.”
Singh also told the court that Michel was trying to escape Dubai – before his extradition on December 4 – and had changed his appearance. “He had a different look….This has been captured…will submit it (records) in the evening,” he said.
Defence Counsel Aljo Joseph submitted that Michel had fully cooperated and supplied all documents regarding the transactions. He told the court that the CBI was carrying out the proceeding against him with the same facts and accusations that an Italian court had seen before acquitting him.
The accused also sought leniency from court on the ground that he is suffering from dyslexia.
The CBI submitted, “The accused did not join investigation or face trial in Italy – the judgment is related to some other persons. It does not give blanket cover to the accused from prosecution under any law prevailing in a different country. Since the judgment has been passed on very limited issues which are different from the issue being looked into by this court, judgment of foreign court is not binding.”
The agency also submitted that the accused has links in ministries, with people in politics, bureaucracy, many of whom are witness in the case. “We brought him with so much difficulty. Some new facts have emerged and we need to have follow ups on those. He has not been a cooperative witness. A lot more to be unearthed. He has no roots in India here,” the agency said.
It said Michel was negotiating on behalf of Augusta Westland, and during such negotiations got crucial confidential information about the progress of procurement process of VVIP helicopters from “IAF and MoD (Ministry of Defence)” through his sources. It was stated that he passed these information to other middlemen and senior management of Augusta Westland.
“He also committed offence of paying kick-backs/bribes to the differet persons including IAF personel, bureacrats , politicans influence the procurement process and is swinging the deal for supply of 12 VVIP helicopters to GOI by M/s Augusta Westland,” the CBI submitted.
The Enforcement Directorate, in its chargesheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.