CBI opposes bail plea of Christian Michel James in AgustaWestland case in Delhi High Court

The pleas had claimed Christian Michel James made no attempt to tamper with documentary evidence or to obstruct the judicial process in any other manner.
CBI Headquarters (File Photo | PTI)
CBI Headquarters (File Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: The CBI Wednesday opposed in the Delhi High Court the bail plea of alleged middleman Christian Michel James in connection with the AgustaWestland scam, saying there was evidence to show his close involvement in the case.

The agency told Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri that Michel received 42 million euros pursuant to certain contracts concerning the scam and claimed that the trial would finish in six months if day-to-day proceedings are ordered by the trial court.

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

Special public prosecutor DP Singh, appearing for CBI, submitted that substantial progress was made in the investigation after Michel's extradition from Dubai in December 2018.

He argued that his claim that he was extradited to India as a "quid pro quo" for the return of a member of the Dubai Royal family was "objectionable" and a "figment of his imagination".

"This is a ridiculous claim to malign the government of India," Singh said.

He further rebutted Michel's submission that if found guilty, he would be sentenced to a maximum of five years by the concerned court and informed that in the two charge sheets in the case, he was accused of offences that even entail life imprisonment.

The special public prosecutor informed the court that presently, proceedings under Section 207 of the Criminal Procedure Code for the supply of documents were ongoing before the trial court after which he would start arguments on charge.

"Documents would come (from certain countries but we are otherwise done with the investigation," Singh added.

James had earlier told the court that he has already spent three years in judicial custody and even if he is found guilty, he could only be given maximum imprisonment of five years.

Counsel for James had contended that he had "nothing to do" with the purchase of VVIP choppers and said that even after years of investigation –which started in 2013, "nothing has come out".

In his plea before the high court, James has challenged the June 18 order of the trial court refusing to release him on bail in the case, noting that the stage was not fit to grant him bail.

The trial court, while dismissing the bail pleas in both the CBI and ED cases, had said that considering the overall facts and circumstances, 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 grant of bail.

In his bail applications in both the CBI and ED cases, the accused had said he was not required for investigation and expressed willingness to cooperate with the probe.

The applications had said that the accused never sought to evade the process of law and that no purpose will be served by keeping him in further custody.

The pleas had claimed James made no attempt to tamper with documentary evidence or to obstruct the judicial process in any other manner.

James, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the ED on December 22, 2018.

On January 5, 2019, he was sent to judicial custody in the ED case.

He is also lodged in judicial custody in another case registered by the CBI in connection with the scam.

James is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the CBI.

The other two are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

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

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 VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.

The matter would be heard next on December 15.

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