AgustaWestland Scam: SC To Hear Bail Pleas of Christian Michel James on February 7

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would hear on February 7 the bail pleas of Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam in which the CBI and the ED have lodged two separate cases.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, which said the pleas would be heard next Tuesday.

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

In May last year, the apex court had sought the responses of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the bail pleas of James.

During an earlier hearing, the counsel for the accused had said the case was covered under section 436A of the CrPC (maximum period for which an under trial prisoner can be detained) and James had served 50 per cent of the sentence for the offence allegedly committed by him.

The accused was extradited from Dubai in December 2018 and has been in custody since then, his counsel had said, adding that the probe against him was yet to be concluded.

The lawyer had said the petitioner’s case is that under sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the maximum sentence is five years in jail and he has spent nearly four years in prison.

Appearing in the court on behalf of the probe agencies, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju had earlier said with great difficulty, the agencies got the custody of the accused and section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) would not apply to ED proceedings.

He had said James was a resident of the United Kingdom and was extradited from Dubai.

James has challenged the March 11, 2022 order of the Delhi High Court that dismissed his bail plea.

Seeking his release in both the CBI and ED cases, the accused 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 cases last year, a trial court had said considering the overall facts and circumstances, the serious nature of accusations, the gravity of the offence and the conduct of the accused, it did not consider it to be a fit case for the grant of bail.

James was extradited from Dubai in December 2018 and subsequently, arrested by the two federal probe agencies.

The CBI, in its chargesheet, 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 choppers worth 556.262 million euros to the Indian government.

The ED, in its chargesheet filed against James in June 2016, has alleged that James had 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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