AgustaWestland scam: Christian Michel sent to 5-day police custody
The CBI had originally sought 14 days of police custody for Christian Michel
New Delhi: A special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sent Christian Michel to five days in police custody on Wednesday, a day after the British middleman arrived in India to face investigators probing the AgustaWestland chopper scam.
While the CBI was granted police custody of Michel, he has also been permitted to meet his lawyer for an hour each in the morning and evening. Michel arrived in Delhi on Tuesday after being extradited by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“He (Michel) has 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 details of where the money has gone and to whom it has gone. He is needed for custodial interrogation,” the CBI told the court.
The agency denied media reports that Michel was aggressive during interrogation on Tuesday night. A person familiar with the developments said, “Tuesday night’s interaction was casual. His extent of cooperation will be assessed from now.”
The court rejected a bail application moved by Michel’s counsel but also turned down the CBI’s request for a 14-day custody, settling instead for five.
Late on Tuesday night, in what has proved to be a major breakthrough for India’s investigative agencies, Michel landed in Delhi and was taken to the CBI headquarters, where he was questioned through the night.
Confirming national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval’s role in the matter, the CBI said on Tuesday: “Christian Michel James who has been avoiding criminal proceedings in India in the AgustaWestland Case is being extradited by UAE authorities to India under the guidance of Ajit Doval.”
Meanwhile, in a major embarrassment for the Congress party on Wednesday, the chief of the legal department of party’s youth wing, Aljo K. Joseph, was sacked after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pointed out that he was Michel’s lawyer. Krishna Allavaru, joint secretary incharge of Indian Youth Congress (IYC), wrote on Twitter that Joseph was “appearing in his personal capacity” and the IYC did not endorse such actions and hence Aljo was being removed from his post and sacked from the party.
While the entire operation had been coordinated by CBI interim director M. Nageswara Rao, a team lead by A. Sai Manohar, joint director of the CBI, had been accompanying Michel from Dubai. Indian intelligence officials also helped with the operation.
The CBI filed its first charge sheet in the AgustaWestland case in September 2017, alleging that Michel, through his companies, received €42.27 million in payment for service and consultancy contracts in 2010-11. India is investigating charges that Michel organized bribes to push a ₹3,600-crore contract for VVIP helicopters to be purchased for top Indian leaders.
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