The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) whether it can keep Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, in custody because he is a foreign national.
A Bench led by Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said How long will you keep this man only because he is a foreign national? Ordinarily, if he was an Indian national who had already spent four-and-a-half years in jail and this was the state of the prosecution, we would have been inclined to grant bail.
The Supreme court asked the counsels to provide a note to assist the court and posted the matter for further hearing in the second week of January 2023.
The Supreme Court was hearing the bail pleas of Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam in which the CBI and Enforcement Directorate have lodged two separate cases..Michel has challenged the Delhi High Court order dated March 11 by which his bail plea was dismissed.
Earlier in May this year, the top The court had sought response from the CBI and the ED on the bail pleas.
In August ED had filed its reply stated that Michel not being a citizen of India is a flight risk and his extradition has been obtained with extreme difficulties and procedural impediments. The Enforcement Directorate apprehends that if he is enlarged on bail, he might flee to avoid the investigation, ED in its reply said that
“Michel has committed a grave economic offence of huge magnitude and has thereafter laundered the proceeds of crime,” ED said
During the previous hearing, the counsel for the accused had submitted that the case falls under Section 436A of the CrPC (the maximum period for which an undertrial can be detained) and he has already served 50 per cent of the sentence for the offense he committed.
The counsel had said that Michel’s contention is that under sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the maximum punishment is five years and he has already served about four years.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the probe agencies, had submitted that it was with great difficulty that the probe agency got their custody and section 436A would not apply to the ED proceedings. He said that Michel is a resident of Britain and he was extradited from Dubai.
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 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.