VVIP chopper scam: HC asks Christian Michel to file reply on plea against extra phone calls

Justice Mukta Gupta said the reply should be filed within three weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on October 9.

Published: 21st August 2019 06:40 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2019 06:40 PM   |  A+A-

AugustaWestland scam accused Christian Michel

AugustaWestland scam accused Christian Michel (Photo | EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked Christian Michel James, an accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, to reply to the Tihar Jail authorities' plea challenging an order allowing him to make international calls for 15 minutes a week in violation of prison rules.

The counsel for Michel, produced before the high court from Tihar Jail, sought time to file the reply.

Justice Mukta Gupta said the reply should be filed within three weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on October 9.

During the hearing, Michel claimed before the court that he has missed two proceedings of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) before the tribunal as the jail authorities had not informed him about it.

He claimed that the notice about the hearing was given by the tribunal to the jail authorities but they did not inform him and he wanted to be involved in it.

On being asked by the judge whether he was making calls from the jail, Michel said that due to procedural issues, he was not being able to make international calls.

However, Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra said the jail authorities maintain logs of the phone calls made and added that Michel has been regularly making calls which were recorded.

ALSO READ | VVIP Chopper scam: Witness tells court Enforcement Directorate extorted statement from him

The accused was brought to the high court in pursuance to its production warrant issued earlier.

The high court was hearing jail authorities' plea challenging a trial court's order allowing Michel to make international phone calls to his family, friends and lawyers for 15 minutes a week in violation of prison rules.

The authorities had told the high court that the prison manual provided only for 10 minutes per week for making calls.

The high court had on March 18 asked the CBI and Michel to file their replies on the plea in which the jail authorities alleged that no facts and circumstances were considered by the trial court for granting an "illegal and improper privilege of communication".

The counsel for jail had said that as per the January 27, 2017 circular of prison authorities, a foreign national is only allowed to make calls to the country of his or her origin.

Michel's country of origin is the UK and as per the jail call records, he has been mostly contacting his "legal representative" in Italy.

The accused, lodged in jail under judicial custody, had approached the trial court seeking permission to make phone calls to his family and others, claiming that prison authorities had rejected his plea.

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

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

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

The deal was scrapped in January 2014.

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