New Delhi: A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in New Delhi on Monday extended the police remand of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the ₹ 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, by another five days. On 5 December, the court first remanded Michel in CBI custody.
The CBI has also sought specimen of Michel’s handwriting to examine the letters with references to “AP" and “fam" (family), people familiar with the development said. The move could spell trouble for senior members of the previous United Progressive Alliance government, which was in power when the AgustaWestland scam broke out, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the acronyms referred to prominent Congress party leaders.
The AgustaWestland case refers to a deal for 12 luxury choppers for use by the president, prime minister, former prime ministers and other VIPs when the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government was in power.
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India is investigating charges that Michel had organized bribes to push the contract.
In 2012, Swiss authorities had discovered a diary from the apartment of another alleged middleman Guido Haschke. Haschke later told authorities that it was Michel who had dictated the contents of that note as he himself was incapable of cursive writing.
The CBI also told the court that former Indian Air Force chief S.P Tyagi and his brothers Rajiv and Sanjeev Tyagi were handled by other middlemen—Carlo Girosa and Haschke—and “Michel got money from AgustaWestland UK through UAE (United Arab Emirates), while the others through Italy into Tunisia."
Besides, the CBI told the court that Michel was uncooperative with the investigation. “He goes through the documents; he has done his homework and knows which is admissible and which is not. He is not very cooperative. We have not finished confronting him with the documents. In addition, we need three days for confrontation of different witnesses, but he (Michel) is not cooperating, he is evasive. If he finds something intimidating, he says he does not know."
While the CBI has been granted Michel’s custody, he had earlier been permitted to meet his lawyer for an hour each in the morning and evening—a move which the agency said amounted to “tutoring" Michel. The court has now scaled down the time that Michel is allowed with his lawyer, to an hour everyday.
Michel’s counsel also informed the court that he was being “tortured"—an allegation which the CBI denied, saying that “he is being treated with utmost respect". Michel arrived in Delhi on 4 December, after being extradited by the UAE.
“He (Michel) had received €37.7 million (more than ₹ 240 crore) in his account. Where has the money gone? We have to confront him and we have to know the details of where the money has gone and to whom it has gone. He is needed for custodial interrogation," the CBI informed the court last week.