VVIP chopper deal | Special Court rejects Christian Michel’s bail pleas

Michel Christian. File   | Photo Credit: AP

A special court on Friday dismissed the bail applications of British national Christian Michel, a key accused in the ₹3,700-crore VVIP chopper deal scam, in connection with the cases being pursued by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. He is currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

“Considering the overall facts and circumstances, serious nature of accusations, gravity of offence and aforesaid conduct of the accused, I do not consider it to be a fit case for grant of bail,” said Special Judge Arvind Kumar.

With regard to a letter sent by the British High Commission to the Court, stating that Michel's medical condition and his pre-trial detention of two and half years could be taken into account when his bail application was considered, the Judge said such a direct communication to the court from a third party was not permissible.

“Vide order dated May 13, 2021, it was clarified that such direct communication to court from 3rd party is not permissible and if anyone has any grievance or wants to participate in the court proceedings, he may move appropriate application and same shall be considered as per law...,” said the order.

The Court found merit in the probe agencies' arguments that the accused was a British national having no roots in India. Non-bailable warrants were issued against him on September 24, 2015, and a Red Corner Notice was opened on November 25, 2015. However, he did not join the probe in India nor appeared before the court on his own. He had also not joined investigation in Italy.

“The accused cannot claim parity with other accused persons in view of his aforesaid conduct,” said the order, which also rejected the medical grounds.

Michel, represented by his lawyer Aljo. K. Joseph, had submitted that there was no proof against him in the charge sheets; no further evidence was to be recovered from him; most of the accused had been granted bail; he was willing to cooperate; there was no likelihood of him tampering with or influencing witnesses; and that he was illegally taken to the custody of Indian government. He also said the Italian court had exonerated him.

However, the agencies opposed his bail pleas stating that there was enough evidence. The CBI, represented by Special Public Prosecutor D.P. Singh, said he committed the offence of paying kickbacks to different persons, including Air Force personnel, bureaucrats and politicians.

Michel was a frequent visitor to India, but ever since his role in the deal became public, he did not come back. He had last entered the country on February 12, 2013, when co-accused Giuseppe Orsi was arrested by the Italian authorities, and flew out the same day. The CBI initiated a preliminary inquiry into the kickback allegations on February 25 that year, said the agency.

The accused had cited the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's opinion given in February that the Indian government should release him immediately. However, the court favourably considered the probe agencies' contention that the Working Group's findings were based on wrong/incomplete submissions; it was not a judicial body; and that its findings were not binding.

The court also agreed that the accused was not a party to the proceedings before the Italian court.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 1:50:12 AM |

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