A Delhi court Saturday extended CBI custody of the alleged middleman Christian Michel James by four days, with the central investigating agency saying that he has to be flown to Pawan Hans India Ltd office in Mumbai for identification of helicopters and verification of his version on the alleged buy-back negotiation in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case.
The CBI had alleged that Michel’s company, Global Trade and Commerce Ltd, UK, had raised invoices of 18.2 million euros to buy-back obsolete Pawan Hans helicopters without ever making the purchase.
Additional Sessions Judge Arvind Kumar allowed the extension of custody after the alleged middleman was presented in court after the end of his five-day CBI custody. Michel was extradited to India on December 4 from the UAE.
CBI Special Public Prosecutor DP Singh submitted that extension of custody was required for further interrogation as the accused has to be confronted with “voluminous documents” received from five countries “pursuant to the Letters of Request”.
“The accused may be required to be taken to the premises of Pawan Hans India at Juhu, Mumbai, for identification of WG-30 helicopters and also to verify his version of his attempted negotiation to buy-back the WG-30 helicopters and to identify the shipper and to confront him with officials of Pawan Hans India Ltd,” Singh said.
Singh said that Michel had earlier claimed that he was dyslexic, but now he is able to write. “Ab dyslexia khatam ho gaya (Now the dyslexia is over),” Singh told the court.
The Special Public Prosecutor submitted that they are trying to decipher the abbreviation used in the documents received, such as “budget sheet”. The CBI also said that Rs 92.3 lakh was given to some Air Force officials through Michel’s shell firm for their air expense during 2009-2013. “This was revealed today morning,” Singh submitted.
Aljo Joseph, the counsel for the accused, opposed further custody and said there is no incriminating material against him. He said consular access has not been given to the accused.
The CBI said that it has sent a no-objection certificate to the MEA regarding consular access to the accused and the same is pending before the ministry.