Christian Michel James
Alleged middleman Christian Michel James. Photo: ANI

AgustaWestland chopper scam: SC denies bail to ‘middleman’ Christian Michel James

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied bail to Christian Michel James, an alleged middlemen in AgustaWestland chopper scam cases, who is being probed by both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The Rs 3,600-crore alleged scam relates to the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said James argument that he be released on bail on ground that he has served half of the maximum sentence in the cases cannot be accepted. It, however, said James may pursue his remedy of regular bail before the trial court in the cases.

James has sought bail under section 436A of CrPC which says that a person can be released on bail if he has completed half of the maximum sentence prescribed for the offence.

Uncovered in Italy

The chopper scam came to light in 2012 when it was found that several politicians and bureaucrats allegedly accepted bribes to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters built by Italian defence manufacturing giant Finmeccanica at an estimated cost of Rs 3,600 crore. The scam was first uncovered in Italy. In February 2013, Bruno Spagnolini, the CEO of AgustaWestland, was arrested by Italian authorities on charges the company bribed middlemen to secure the deal with the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Also read: SC seeks replies from CBI, ED on bail pleas of Christian Michel in AugustaWestland scam case

It was alleged that several parameters — the height of the cabin of the helicopter, the operating ceiling, and the maximum altitude the helicopter could fly to, for instance — were tweaked to help AgustaWestland.

In February 2010, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government signed a contract to purchase 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters at Rs 3,600 crore. These helicopters were supposed to be used for ferrying the President of India, the Prime Minister, and other such very, very important people (VVIPs).

(With Agency inputs)

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