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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Govt misusing ED, never named any person: Christian Michel

Alleged middleman Christian Michel, arrested in AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, has told a Delhi court that he did not name anyone during his questioning by the Enforcement Directorate.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2019 01:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Michel Christian, the alleged middleman arrested in AgustaWestland case, has denied telling names of any person to the Enforcement Directorate during his questioning by the agency.
Michel Christian, the alleged middleman arrested in AgustaWestland case, has denied telling names of any person to the Enforcement Directorate during his questioning by the agency. (AP)
         

A day after the Enforcement Directorate filed a supplementary charge sheet in the AgustaWestland case, stating that Christian Michel had identified the AP in the documents related to the case as Congress leader Ahmed Patel and FAM as family, the Briton told the special CBI court through his lawyer that he “never named anyone” during his questioning. Patel was not named as an accused in the charge sheet, though.

In a plea filed before the court, he also accused ED of sensationalizing the entire case by leaking the charge sheet to the media even before the court could take cognizance of it.

Michel’s lawyer Aljo K Joseph told special CBI judge Arvind Kumar that ED prosecutors declined to give his client and him a copy of the charge sheet because the court was yet to take cognizance of it. However, it was “clandestinely provided” to the media to sensationalize the issue, he added. “ED is not interested in a fair trial in a court of law and only wants a trial by media,” and that it is making a mockery of the judicial process “resulting in complete travesty of justice,” he submitted.

He alleged that the government is using the agency and other investigating agencies “for political purpose”.

In the charge sheet filed on Thursday, ED named three people and companies including David Syms, a long time business partner of Michel.

The charge sheet alleges that bribes were paid to “middlemen”, politicians, defence officers and bureaucrats when India agreed to buy 12 VVIP choppers from Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland.

The plea moved by Michel also said: “The prosecuting agency is acting as a weapon in the hands of the government and by clandestinely giving the documents to the media houses engineered in media trial with ulterior motives.”

Joseph seemed to be pitching for an embargo on coverage and said that in the interests of a free and fair trial, the court could temporarily curtail the freedom of media.

Under the now-scrapped deal with AugustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence group Leonardo, formerly Finmeccanica, India agreed to buy 12 helicopters for ferrying VVIPs. The chopper deal was inked in February 2010 and scrapped four years later over allegations that bribes were paid to change specifications and secure the contract.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has alleged there was an estimated loss of about ₹2,666 crore to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.

The charge sheet details Michel’s explanation of details mentioned in documents recovered by the Swiss Police from the house of the mother of Guido Haschke, the then CEO of the company in Lugano, Switzerland, and which referred to several people in initials and abbreviations.

Patel has already dismissed the mention of his name as political vendetta.