AgustaWestland: Court Dismisses Middleman Christian Michel’s Bail Plea

A Delhi court on Tuesday dismissed the bail application of alleged middleman Christian Michel in a corruption case related to alleged AgustaWestland scam considering the “serious nature of accusations” and “gravity of offence”.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar dismissed the application moved by Michel, claiming parity with other accused in the case.

The judge also said the accused was a British National having no roots in India and, therefore, a flight risk. He said Michel “cannot claim parity with other accused” in view of his conduct.

The judge dismissed the contention of the accused that on the same set of charges a trial was conducted against him in Italy and the Italian court acquitted him of the same allegations, noting the judgment of the court there was in respect of other accused persons and on different issues like international bribery and tax fraud committed in 2009-2010.

The judge said in the present case the accused is facing criminal proceedings for corruption, cheating and other offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code which are altogether distinct and separate offences.

“Hence the decision of Italian Court does not have any bearing on the proceedings of the present case. The alleged offences have been committed within the jurisdiction of this Court,” the judge said.

The judge said the allegations against the accused are serious in nature.

“Thus 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. Application for bail filed by accused is, thus, dismissed,” the judge said.

Michel had sought bail, claiming he had already spent more than four years and two months in addition to the period which he spent in Dubai jail.

He claimed all the main accused persons were granted bail in the case and that the prosecution did not objected to the bail application of government officials who were arrayed as accused.

Michel claimed during the pre-trial incarceration his mother died and he was not in position to offer any service or offer any prayers according to his religious customs in judicial custody.

His wife also divorced him due to long separation and incarceration.

The CBI opposed the bail application, saying considering the nature of offences and severity of allegations, the applicant was not entitled to be released on bail.

It added the conduct of the applicant was malafide, showing his total avoidance and abscondence from the process of law not only in India but also in Italy.

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

The CBI has claimed Michel was a consultant for AgustaWestland and acted as a middleman who was negotiating on behalf of the company. During such negotiation he got crucial confidential information about the progress of procurement process of VVIP helicopters through his sources and passed on the information to the company.

The scam is related to alleged payment of kickbacks to bureaucrats and politicians for the deal to buy the helicopters from AgustaWestland.

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