AgustaWestland Chopper Deal Case: Court allows CBI to quiz Michel till December 19

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New Delhi : A Delhi court on Saturday extended by another four days the CBI custody of British national Christian Michel, the middleman accused in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal. Special Judge Arvind Kumar allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to quiz Michel till December 19.

The middleman was presented in the court at the end of five-day CBI custody. He was extradited to India on December 4 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The CBI had sought another five days' custody of Michel. Special Public Prosecutor D.P. Singh pleaded with the court that Michel is required to be taken to Mumbai and also needed to be confronted with some documents.

The CBI counsel said that Michel is required to be taken to the premises of Pawan Hans India Ltd at Juhu, Mumbai, for identification of WG-30 helicopters and verify his version for his attempted negotiation to buyback the WG-30 helicopters, to identify the shipper and to confront with officials of Pawan Hans India Ltd.

The agency also told the court that voluminous documents have been received from five countries pursuant to the Letters of Request and a number of documents are yet to be confronted with the accused.

The CBI said that Rs 92.3 lakh was given to some Air Force officials and Michel, through his shell companies, to bear the air expense of two serving/ retired Air Force officials during 2009-2013 which needs to be verified.

Michel's custody is required to be confronted with witnesses as the probe agency has got different versions from witnesses which need to be corroborated. Michel's defence counsel had opposed the plea for further extension of custody.

Michel's defence counsel Aljo K. Joseph and Vishnu told the court that there is no incriminating material against the accused and that the Italian court had found nothing wrong against him.

Meanwhile, the court allowed Italian lawyer Santrolli Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos to meet Michel for 10 minutes in the court room. Anjos has represented Michel before different authorities in several countries.

The court also allowed Michel to sign the Power of Attorney in favour of Anjos for representing the accused before Interpol and asked the defence counsel to place one copy of the Power of Attorney on record.

Anjos, who wanted to represent Michel as defence counsel, was asked by the court to move a proper application and the court will decide it after hearing the arguments.

However, the CBI has opposed the Anjos plea to represent herself as Michel's defence counsel and said that the agency might make her as a witness in the case on the basis of statement she has given to the media. Defence counsel Joseph told the court that the British High Commission has not received any communication from the CBI regarding consular access to Michel.

The investigation agency informed the court that they have already sent no objection to the Ministry of External Affairs and the matter is pending before the ministry for consideration.

"The CBI has no role in the matter. Therefore writing any letter of reminder to the Ministry will not serve any purpose. However, the agency will look into the matter," the CBI submitted before the court.

The CBI also told the court that Britain has not responded to the Letter of Request sent by the agency. The court said that it will hear bail plea of Michel on December 17 asking the CBI to file a reply on his bail plea.