AgustaWestland chopper scam: SC denies bail to alleged middleman Christian Michel James

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied bail to Christian Michel James, an alleged middlemen in AgustaWestland chopper scam cases, who is being probed by both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

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

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said that argument of James that he be released on bail on ground that he has completed half of maximum sentence in the cases cannot be accepted.

It, however, said that James may pursue his remedy of regular bail before trial court in the case.

James has sought bail under section 436A of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which says that a person can be released on bail if he has completed half of the maximum sentence prescribed for the offence.

Advocate Aljo K Joseph submitted that after his extradition from Dubai in 2018, James has spent more than four years in jail, while the maximum sentence prescribed for the offences he was extradited for is seven years.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the CBI and the ED, said the investigation in the cases is still under progress and letters rogatory, which are formal requests from a court to a foreign court for judicial assistance, have been sent to the UAE, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

The bench then questioned Jain as to how long can he be kept in custody keeping in mind the investigation is still going on even as chargsheet and supplementary chargesheet have been filed in the case.

James has challenged the Delhi High Court order dated March 11, 2022 by which his bail pleas were dismissed in both the CBI and ED cases.

Seeking his release in both the cases, he had said he was not required for the purpose of investigation and expressed his willingness to cooperate with the probe.

Dismissing the bail pleas in both the CBI and ED cases in 2021, a trial court had said considering the overall facts and circumstances, the serious nature of the accusations, the gravity of the offence, and the conduct of the accused, it did not consider it a fit case for bail.

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 12 VVIP helicopters worth 556.262 million euros (around Rs 3,600 crore).

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

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

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