VVIP Chopper case: Delhi court allows CBI to take Christian Michel's signature, handwriting samples

New Delhi: A Delhi court Tuesday allowed the CBI plea seeking permission to take signature and handwriting samples of Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman who has been chargesheeted and arrested in the graft-tainted AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar passed the order after Michel's counsel said he had no objections to the CBI's plea and he wanted to prove his client's innocence.
"The application is allowed," the judge said. Michel, 57, is in CBI custody till 15 December. The CBI, represented through advocate DP Singh, has said Michel's handwriting and signature samples are required to match them with the documents which are already in its possession.

Advocates Aljo K Joseph and Vishnu Shankar, appearing for Michel, said he has no objection to the CBI's plea as the truth has to come out. The counsel said their only concern was that the samples are sent directly to the forensic laboratory for comparison and not be used for any other purpose. CBI prosecutor took a strong objection to the submission saying they were raising questions over the integrity of the institution.

File image of Christian Michel. PTI

File image of Christian Michel. PTI

The court also allowed Michel's plea to make phone calls to his family members during the CBI custody. The phone has to be on speaker mode and the spoken language should be English, it said. It, however, turned down the plea to allow him to make phone calls to his manager and a step brother after CBI's opposition. The agency said Michel's manager was a suspect in the case and his step brother was a barrister and the accused cannot be allowed to speak to them during police custody.

Michel was produced before the court on Monday after expiry of his five-day CBI custody during which he was confronted with various documents relating to the case. It extended his police custody till 15 December. CBI had contended that the accused was "not cooperating" in the investigation and was giving "evasive" answers.

It had argued that Michel was required to be confronted with some witnesses to unearth the deep rooted conspiracy and to identify his accomplices including the IAF officials, bureaucrats and politicians. His counsel maintained that Michel's police custody was not required any further and no incriminating evidence was shown to him during the interrogation.

He has also filed a detailed bail application which would be heard later. Michel, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, was brought to India on the night of 4 December, following his extradition by the UAE in connection with the case and was arrested by the CBI. The next day, he was produced before the court which had allowed his five-day custodial interrogation by the CBI.

Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI. Both the agencies notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him. The CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on 8 February, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

On 1 January, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italy-based Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.

The CBI on 1 September, 2017, had filed a charge sheet in the case in which Michel was named as one of the accused. Former IAF Chief S P Tyagi was also chargesheeted by the CBI in a Delhi Court along with nine others in connection with a bribery case in the VVIP chopper deal. Tyagi (73) is the first chief of the Indian Air Force to be chargesheeted in a corruption or a criminal case by the CBI.

Besides him, the agency has also chargesheeted retired Air Marshal JS Gujral along with eight others, including five foreign nationals, in the charge sheet filed before the Special CBI Judge. Anglo-Italian company, AgustaWestland, is also among the accused.

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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 17:45:52 IST

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