CBI supplementary charge sheet in VVIP chopper case soon

New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here on Wednesday informed the court that it would file a supplementary charge sheet in connection with its probe into the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.

"A supplementary charge sheet on the basis of investigation conducted till date is in the process of being filed," said Senior Counsel DP Singh appearing for the CBI.

While opposing the bail plea of British national and alleged middleman Chritian James Michel, the CBI said, "the agency was continuing to ascertain involvement of other accused public servants of different departments and private persons, suspected to be involved in this case".

Singh said the investigation involved wider international ramifications in which letters rogatory (LRs) or supplementary LRs had been sent to nine countries. Voluminous documents had been received in pursuance of execution of LRs and in domestic investigation, he added.

"After the extradition of the accused (Michel) and the deportation of Rajiv Saxena, investigation has led to certain crucial aspects of the case, including the beneficiaries who received kickbacks through the applicant (Michel)," he said.

The CBI also told the court Michel was further required for confrontation with certain witnesses and suspects and there was "reasonable apprehension" of his exercising influence over the witnesses and tampering with evidence if released on bail.

"During investigation, copies of classified/secret official documents of IAF/Ministry of Defence, such as 'operational requirements' for VVIP helicopters before issuance of the Request of Proposal (RoP) and other incriminating documents running into more than one lakh pages, have been received from Italy and Switzerland," it said.

The CBI also need to probe a 'payment sheet' recovered from one of the accused, prepared on the dictation of Michel. According to the sheet, "an amount of 30 million euros was paid/proposed to be paid to officers of IAF, MoD, bureaucrats, politicians and their families in India for favouring the deal."

It said Michel had entered into as many as five contracts through two of his firms to legitimise the illicit commission/kickbacks on the procurement of VVIP helicopters by the Defence Ministry.

The CBI said, "42.27 million euros were paid by the Westland Group Companies to the firms of the applicant as kickbacks/bribes without undertaking any work against the receipt of such amount."

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), also investigating the money laundering charges in the Rs 3,600 crore deal, opposed Michel's bail plea.

Singh, also appearing for the ED, said as far as the allegation regarding filing of prosecution complaint against 38 persons and Saxena turning approver was concerned, it's submitted that "Saxena and Michel form important parts of two different channels of money laundering".

Investigation had revealed links between Michel and Saxena and proceeds of crime had been routed from the companies of Michel to those under Saxena.

The case was not based only on documentary evidence, crucial witnesses and suspects had been identified, and the investigation was at a crucial stage, including Ratul Puri.

The ED arrested Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in the Rs 354 crore bank fraud case on the complaint of Central Bank of India. It also wants to question Puri in connection with the AgustaWestland case.

Singh said there was sufficient evidence that Michel had made payments to Indian nationals in the guise of availing fake services to further pay kickbacks or bribes to the stake holders involved in the case.

The court will hear the matter further on Thursday.

In his plea, Michel said the investigation regarding him was over and no useful purpose would be served by keeping him in further custody. He said he would be available to join the probe as and when required.

Michel was taken into custody by the CBI on December 5, 2018 after his extradition from Dubai, while the ED took him into custody on December 22, 2018.

He is in judicial custody in both the cases. Michel, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa are the three alleged middlemen being probed in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam by the two central agencies.

--IANS

aks/pcj

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