AgustaWestland case: Never named anyone, chargesheet leaked to media, Michel tells court

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 05 April 2019, 04:12 PM
Christian Michel
Christian Michel

A day after the Enforcement Directorate filed a supplementary chargesheet against Christian Michel in the AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper scam, the alleged middleman moved a Delhi court on Friday claiming that he has not named anybody before the probe agency.

Michel also alleged that the central government was using agencies for political agenda.

Meanwhile, Michel's counsel claimed that the copy of the charge sheet was provided to the media before it was provided to Michel.

In his plea, Michel has questioned how the charge sheet was leaked to the media even before its cognisance was taken by the court. On this, the Patiala House Court issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) asking how the details of the chargesheet were leaked to the media.

"Michel has not named anyone in his statement before the agency which is being leaked to media. This is only to make the matter sensational and prejudice the case against my client," his counsel, Aljo K Joseph said.

He claimed the copy of the charge sheet, which was filed on Thursday, was provided to the media before it was provided to Michel.

He has questioned as to how the charge sheet was leaked to the media even before its cognisance was taken by the court.

The plea said that trial by a judge and free and fair trial rights override media rights and the court can temporarily curtail the freedom of the media to ensure that.

"The court is duty bound to balance it. Even to ensure a free and fair trail the court can temporarily curtail the freedom of media to ensure free and fair trial," the plea said.

It further said that at the time of filing the charge sheet the counsels for the accused had asked for supply of copies of the charge sheet but it was objected to by the ED on the ground that the court has not yet taken cognisance of of the charge sheet.

"Since this court is yet to take cognisance of the charge sheet, it appeared that the ED has clandestinely provided a copy of the same to the media houses which were publishing the same in installments only to sensationalise the issue and prejudice the accused named therein even before cognisance was taken by this court," the plea claimed.

It said selective portions of the charge sheet have been published in the media which make it clear that the ED was not interested in a fair trial in a court of law but in a trial by media.

"ED is making mockery of the judicial process resulting in complete travesty of justice. The extradition treaty prohibited the extradition of accused involved in the political offences and the government is now using the ED and all the investigating agencies for the political purpose. The supply of the charge sheet to the media houses is the best example of that," it said.

The plea said that even though the court has not taken cognisance over the documents filed before it, in order to make the entire case a sensation again in the media, the ED had supplied the charge sheet to the media.

"The act of the prosecuting agency is highly condonable and contrary to the procedure established by law. It is pertaining to mention here that the prosecuting agency is acting as a weapon in the hands of the government and by clandestinely giving the documents to the media houses engineered in media trial with ulterior motives," it claimed.

The plea further claimed that such hostile remarks might curtail the rights of Michel to a free and fair trial as he was a citizen of another country.

What the chargesheet reveals 

On Wednesday, the chargesheet filed by the ED before the court revealed that Michel, during the interrogation, identified the initials “AP” as Ahmed Patel, “FAM” as Family and one “Mrs Gandhi”.    

The agency, in its supplementary chargesheet filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), said "a part of kickback was paid to defence officials, bureaucrats, mediapersons and important political persons of the ruling party" when the deal was being struck.

The chargesheet said according to the "budget sheet, 30 million euros were paid to Air Force officers, bureaucrats and politicians" to swing the deal in the favour of AgustaWestland for purchasing the choppers to ferry VVIPs across the country.

"Christian Michel James has further disclosed various abbreviations used in the budget sheet, which contains the details of the payments made to Air Force officials, bureaucrats and political persons.

"The recipients of the kickback include several categories of persons namely Air Force officials, bureaucrats including defence ministry officials and top political leaders of the then ruling party. As per Christian Michel James, 'AP' means Ahmed Patel and 'Fam' means Family," the ED said.

At another place in the chargesheet, Michel said, "I cannot say what Haschke was thinking. As a guess, I would think he was talking about Ahmed Patel."

Regarding "Fam", he said it "could mean family".

While the identity of the said Ahmed Patel is not clear, it is understood that it refers to the senior Congress leader. The veteran leader has not been named in the PMLA FIR of the case.

In the same chargesheet, Rajiv Saxena, another accused arrested in the case, has been quoted by the ED as saying that "AP" was a "reference" to Ahmed Patel.

Patel in the past has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The ED said the kickback paid by the Anglo-Italian firm in the case was "at least about 12 per cent of the contract amount" and around 70 million euros were paid through the two middlemen involved in the case -- Michel and Guido Haschke.

It added that this was an "undisputed fact" that the two middlemen had received kickbacks worth 70 million euros.

The agency said this fact could be corroborated with the receipt of kickbacks in the bank accounts of companies "controlled and beneficially owned" by Michel and Haschke.

It said the company "enlisted" the two as agents for the VVIP choppers deal in India as it wanted to promote its product and ensure that it became a a frontrunner to bag the deal.

The central probe agency, in its 3,000-page supplementary chargesheet with 52 main pages, also named David Syms, Michel's alleged business partner, and two firms owned by them -- Global Trade and Commerce Ltd and Global Services FZE -- as accused.

In its first chargesheet filed against Michel in June 2016, the ED had alleged that he and others had received 30 million euros (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar said he would decide on whether to take cognisance of the ED's supplementary chargesheet and summon the accused on April 6.

First Published: Friday, April 05, 2019 03:42 PM
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