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CBI looks for Agusta beneficiaries, gets 5-day custody of Michel

CBI’s prosecutor advocate Davinder Pal Singh sought Michel’s custodial interrogation on three grounds.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 06, 2018, 08.27 AM IST
Michel later explored the possibility of a middle path with sleuths. People aware of the developments told ET that the CBI has refused to make any offer.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wants to identify the beneficiaries of alleged kickbacks paid by “middleman” Christian Michel in the Agusta-Westland scandal. These include officials of Indian Air Force and defence ministry, and bureaucrats and politicians of the UPA regime who were allegedly “influenced and instrumental in changing the decisions” which made Agusta-Westland eligible in the bidding process of VVIP helicopters.

These arguments were advanced by the agency to the special CBI court while seeking 14 days custodial interrogation of Michel. The court, however, remanded Michel to five days custody

CBI’s prosecutor advocate Davinder Pal Singh sought Michel’s custodial interrogation on three grounds. Firstly, that Michel needs to be confronted with supposedly incriminating evidence gathered by CBI. Secondly, the identity of the recipients of the alleged kickbacks need to be ascertained. Lastly, to ascertain the details of the money trail i.e how much bribe was alleged paid to whom by Michel. He added that the “deep rooted conspiracy” and role of Michel’s “accomplices” needs to be unearthed.

The CBI, in its remand application, highlighted what it described as a sham agreement dated May 8, 2011 recovered from the house of another alleged middleman Guido Haschke wherein Michel had agreed to reduce the amount of certain payments to 30 million euros from 42 million euros for the “team” to honour the commission to the “family” in full.

Opposing the custodial interrogation, Michel’s lawyer Aljo K Joseph moved an application seeking bail. Adjourning the hearing on bail application, the court allowed Joseph to meet Michel in custody one hour each in the morning and evening.

The court was informed that Michel generated five alleged sham contracts and received nearly 42.27 million euros from Italy’s Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company. The money was allegedly deposited in accounts of Michel’s two Dubai-based companies. The agency further told the court that the money, 42 million euros, or over Rs 300 crore, were paid as kickbacks by Michel to several high-ups during the UPA regime. The agency has alleged that the kickbacks were paid over a period of years from 2004 to 2012.

Advocate Davinder Pal Singh on behalf of CBI told the court that Michel tried to “legitimise the illicit commission" in the purchase of VVIP helicopters by was of the sham contracts. He insisted that not even one contract generated by Michel materialised.

CBI sources said that a “complex maze of contracts” was created by Michel as a disguise for charging his five percent “commission” in the alleged kickbacks paid to highups in the AgustaWestland deal.

These ‘sham’ contracts mostly related to providing helicopters and services related to helicopters to HAL and the Indian Navy.

Another controversy broke out after a BJP leader tweeted alleging that Michel’s lawyer Aljo K Joseph is the national in-charge of the youth wing of the Congress party. Joseph, however, clarified that his relation with Congress and profession are two separate things.

He added that one of his friends having some Dubai connections had requested him to represent Michel. He underlined that he was representing Michel in a “professional capacity”.

Michel, who remained quiet in the presence of two Dubai cops who accompanied the Indian team on a chartered flight to India, turned aggressive when he landed in CBI headquarter late Tuesday night. He alleged that he has been “hijacked” and that his extradition is illegal. Michel, they added, remained aggressive in denial and accused the sleuths of threatening him.

He even narrated his ordeal in Dubai where he was made to stay in jail on a floor for over a month. While the team was en-route India, the Abu Dhabi Interpol e-mailed the CBI at around 9 pm about Michel’s extradition.

However, Michel later explored the possibility of a middle path with sleuths. People aware of the developments told ET that the CBI has refused to make any offer. The agency will first confront Michel with evidence and the people allegedly involved.

The possibility of turning an approver in the case will squarely depend on Michel and the evidence he is willing to reveal, people quoted above indicated.

Meanwhile, a British government spokesperson told ET: “Our staff continue to support the family of a British man following his detention in the UAE. We are in contact with his family and the Emirates authorities regarding his case, and are urgently seeking information from the Indian authorities on his circumstances.”
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