NEW DELHI — Christian Michel, alleged middleman arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper scam, told a Delhi court Friday that he has not named anybody in connection with the deal during investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, which has filed a supplementary charge sheet.
Michel, who alleged that the central government was using agencies for political agenda, filed an application after the reports appeared that ED in its charge sheet has named politicians of the previous UPA dispensation, defence personnel, bureaucrats and journalists as the beneficiaries of the controversial defence deal.
Michel’s counsel appeared with the application before Special Judge Arvind Kumar who issued notice to the probe agency and sought its reply by Saturday when he will take up the matter.
“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.
ED had told the court on Thursday that Michel and other accused received 42 million euros as kickbacks in the defence deal.
The probe agency, in its 3,000-page supplementary charge sheet had 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.
Michel, extradited from Dubai in December last year, was one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI.
On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Italy-based Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.