AgustaWestlnd middleman Christian Michel misusing legal assistance: ED
31 December 2018
The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday told a Delhi court that alleged middleman Christian Michel, arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, was misusing the liberty of legal assistance during his interrogation by passing chits to his lawyers asking how to tackle questions on Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.
The ED, which quizzed the alleged middleman Christian Michel in the last few days, claimed that he has finally named the Gandhi family. The agency also claimed that Michel mentioned the son of the Italian lady and how he is going to become the next Prime Minister of the country. This disclosure by ED has triggered massive political face-off with the BJP demanding answers and the Congress claiming that the ED was being misused.
The ED said during questioning in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, Michel had taken “Mrs Gandhi’s” name in reference to a query, and that he had later managed to hand over a follow-up question to his lawyer seeking directions on “what to say”, calling it “a conspiracy to shield or tamper with evidence”.
Appearing before Vacation Judge Chandra Shekhar, the ED’s Special Public Prosecutor, D P Singh, said: “Parson (December 27) inhone Mrs Gandhi ka naam liya tha ek kisi reference mein. Main reference ka naam nahin loonga. To humein follow-up question karna tha ki Mrs Gandhi kaun hai… Medical examination ke time par unhein legal access diya gaya tha ki achaanak ye notice kiya gaya ki unhone kuchch diya hai, jo vakil sahib ne apne jeb mein rakh diya. Jab check kiya gaya to Mrs Gandhi par jo follow-up questions they woh vakil sahib ko slip-in kiye gaye (Day before yesterday, Michel took Mrs Gandhi’s name in some reference. I won’t say in what reference. So we needed to ask him a follow-up question as to who Mrs Gandhi is… He was given legal access during medical examination when suddenly we noticed that he handed over something to his lawyer, who pocketed it. When we checked, we found that the follow-up questions related to Mrs Gandhi had been slipped to the lawyer).”
Claiming “a conspiracy to shield or tamper with evidence”, the prosecutor said this could be revealed from questioning of the accused. Also submitting an incident report on the matter and asking that Michel be denied access to his lawyers, D P Singh said, “Benefits of legal access should be discontinued… He was actually seeking some direction on what to say and also to send word outside on the line of questioning.”
The ED further said that in one of the contract negotiation documents, “it is mentioned ‘son of an Italian lady… Going to be the next PM’… We have to also confront him with these documents… We have to identify the proceeds of the crime. Officials have been paid money near the North Block and we have to identity them… We also need to decipher who the ‘big man’ referred to as ‘R’ is in the communication between Christian Michel and other people. We need to confront Michel with other people to decipher who ‘the big man’ or ‘R’ is.”
Michel was produced before a special court which extended his ED custody by seven days.
The ED said that his custodial interrogation was necessary to unearth the larger conspiracy in the case.
Michel, an accused in the Rs3,600-crore AgustaWestland scam, was extradited from the UAE recently. He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on 22 December and sent to seven days custody of the agency over money laundering charges in the scam after he was produced in a court here.
He was earlier lodged in Tihar Jail in the related CBI case. The agency sought his custody for eight more days on Saturday, and the judge granted a week.