New Delhi: Suspected AgustaWestland middleman Christian James Michel has been shifted to solitary confinement at New Delhi’s Tihar jail, ThePrint has learnt.
Michel is said to have been shifted to the high-security Jail No. 2 following Intelligence Bureau (IB) inputs suggesting a threat to his life.
The British national, who was extradited from the UAE in December last year, was earlier lodged in Jail No. 7. The shift was made on 18 February, a source in Tihar confirmed. Underworld don Chhota Rajan is also lodged in Jail No. 2.
After Michel was shifted, his possessions — a diary he kept for personal notes and contact details, business cards of British High Commission officers, details of the case documents for the CBI probe, three phone calling cards amounting to Rs 100 each, and some books — were taken away from him.
Michel was allegedly one of the middlemen who brokered the Rs 3,600 crore UPA-era deal for 12 VVIP helicopters, and is accused of paying bribes to officials and politicians to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland, the British arm of Italian firm Finmeccanica (now known as Leonardo).
Michel’s lawyers have flagged his detention in solitary confinement in an application moved before a special court here.
In the application, advocates Aljo K. Joseph, M.S. Vishnu Shankar and Sriram Parakkat said he had been “curtailed” in solitary confinement in violation of the due process of law and his right to be treated on a par with similarly-placed co-accused.
“The accused is now kept in a solitary confinement [sic] in the high security jail along with other hardcore criminals. The liberty of the accused has been curtailed,” the application says.
It also claims that he has been “illegally” deprived of access to the library, newspapers, the canteen and other common facilities like permission to meet visitors, which he had at Jail No. 7, even though he is in judicial custody.
“The accused raised objection in this regard and asked for reasons for keeping him in solitary confinement and he was replied [sic] saying that the decision was made at the top and there is some serious threat to his life, wherein a threat perception report has been received from the IB,” the application states.
‘Jail No. 2 has no proper doors’
Michel’s lawyers have also sought to point out several problems at Jail No. 2, saying it did not have any proper doors and windows and was infested with mosquitoes.
“Jail No. 2 is not having proper doors and windows instead it is covered with plastic sheets. The entire cell is an open one and is full of mosquitoes. The cell in which the accused is placed is fully illuminated 24 hours with high-voltage lights,” the application said.
Michel’s legal team has also alleged that he was not being allowed to make phone calls, either to his family or lawyers, despite a court order giving him the permission to do so.
“It was only after the matter was again raised in the court, [that] Michel was granted permission to make a phone call on Monday,” the application says.
The lawyers have now requested the court to direct the superintendent of Tihar to treat Michel on a par with other inmates, in accordance with law and not like a convict.