Udayavni Special

VVIP chopper scam: HC asks CBI, ED to respond to bail pleas of middleman Christian Michel


PTI, Jul 19, 2021, 4:44 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Monday sought the response of the CBI and ED on bail pleas of alleged middleman Christian Michel James, who is lodged in jail in connection with alleged Agusta Westland scam-related corruption and money laundering cases.

The accused has challenged the trial court’s order denying him the relief.

Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri issued notices to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) and asked them to file replies to the petitions seeking bail in both cases and listed the matter for further hearing on September 21.

James has challenged the June 18 order of the trial court refusing to grant the relief to the British national, who was extradited from Dubai in 2018, noting that the stage was not fit to grant him bail.

Advocate Aljo K Joseph, representing James, said the accused was in custody for over two years and eight months and he is released from jail on bail.

The trial court, while dismissing the bail pleas had said that considering the overall facts and circumstances, serious nature of accusations, the gravity of the offence, and the conduct of the accused, it does not consider it to be a fit case for grant of bail.

The trial court had also taken strong note of the British High Commission directly communicating to the court about James without moving an application, saying it was not permissible.

It had noted that the British High Commission had sent a letter addressed to the court stating that the medical condition of accused Christian Michel James and his pre-trial detention of two and half years may be taken into account when his bail application is considered.

In his bail applications in both the CBI and ED cases, the accused had said he was not required for investigation and expressed willingness to cooperate with the probe.

The applications had said that the accused never sought to evade the process of law and that no purpose will be served by keeping him in further custody.

The pleas had claimed James did not attempt to tamper with documentary evidence or to obstruct the judicial process in any other manner.

The Rs 3,600-crore alleged scam relates to the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland.

James was extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the ED on December 22, 2018.

On January 5, 2019, he was sent to judicial custody in the ED case. He is also lodged in judicial custody in another case registered by the CBI in connection with the scam.

James is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the CBI. The other two are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

The ED, in its charge sheet filed against James in June 2016, had alleged that he had received 30 million euros (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

The CBI, in its charge sheet, has alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer due to the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010, for the supply of VVIP helicopters worth 556.262 million euros.

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