AgustaWestland case: CBI court lets ED further interrogate Christian Michel

A CBI special court has allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, in Tihar jail.

Michel was extradited from Dubai in 2018 and is currently lodged in Tihar Jail in connection with alleged irregularities in the chopper deal. While the CBI is probing his alleged role as a ‘middleman’ in the deal, the ED is investigating money laundering charges against him.

The CBI Special Judge Pulastaya Pramachala while allowing interrogation to ED stated that “considering the requirement of the investigation and the sensitive nature of the case, I find it appropriate to allow Investigation Officer (IO) to interrogate the accused in Tihar Jail itself, wherein the accused is presently lodged, being in judicial custody in this case”.

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The court while allowing IO for interrogation also allowed two more officials for assistance as per requirements. “ED team now permitted to visit Tihar Jail on May 25 and May 26, 2020, from 10 am to 1.30 pm and from 2.30 pm to 5 pm, so as to interrogate accused James, in the presence of jail superintendent or his authorised official,” the court order said.

The court also allowed Advocate Aljo K Joseph, representing accused Michel to provide legal assistance. In its order, the court stated: “In order to ensure rights of the accused, it is directed that a duly appointed counsel of the accused shall be permitted to meet the accused, so as to provide him necessary legal assistance and advice during 2 pm to 2.30 pm on May 25 and 26.”

Moreover, during legal assistance being provided to the accused, ED officials are directed not to be present there and during the interrogation of the accused, his counsel shall not be present there. Concerned jail superintendent has been asked to comply with the aforesaid directions.

The Delhi High Court has recently refused to grant interim bail to Michel on the ground of his age and health condition in CBI and ED both cases.

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The court, while dismissing his bail, noted that the apprehension of the petitioner being infected by COVID-19 pandemic is “unfounded” as the petitioner is lodged in a separate cell with only two other prisoners and thus, is not in a barrack or dormitory where there are a number of prisons. “It is not the case of the petitioner that any of the two inmates residing with him are suffering from the infection.

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