File image of AgustaWestland chopper scam accused Christian Michel | Photo: PTI
File image of AgustaWestland chopper scam accused Christian Michel | Photo: PTI
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New Delhi: AgustaWestland scam accused Christian Michel has moved the Delhi High Court for bail, citing the risk of contracting Covid-19 in jail.

Michel is one of the three alleged middlemen being probed in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper scam. He was arrested in Dubai and extradited to India in December 2018. The charge sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate says he has been accused of receiving kickbacks worth 30 million euro (about Rs 225 crore).

Controversy erupted over the deal in 2013, when Giuseppe Orsi, chairman of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica, and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were arrested on charges that they bribed middlemen to clinch the deal with India. The middlemen in question were allegedly Guido Ralph Haschke, his partner Carlos Gerosa, and Michel.

All three alleged middlemen are being probed by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

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Michel’s plea

Michel’s bail application, filed through advocates Aljo K. Joseph, Sriram P. and Vishnu Shankar, now points out that he is 59 years old and has “pre-existing” illnesses. It claims that this will make him “more susceptible to the said infection (Covid-19) than any other ordinary prisoner with a normal health condition”.

“Further, the presence within prisons of subjects who are tested positive for Covid-19 pose a threat to the applicant considering his existing health condition and age,” it states.

The application asserts that Michel needs to be allowed to live in a lower-risk environment where social distancing can be practiced, and should be “constantly monitored”.

It says that his further imprisonment “would amount to violation of human rights”.

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Cites SC & HC orders on overcrowded prisons

The application refers to an order passed by the Supreme Court on 23 March, when a three-judge bench had directed all states and Union Territories to set up high-level committees to determine the class of prisoners who could be released on parole for four to six weeks.

The order was passed in a suo motu case taken up last week to deal with the “contagion of Covid-19 virus in prisons”.

The application cites an order passed by the Delhi High Court, also on 23 March, where the court had observed: “Needless to state that the under-trial prisoners shall be at liberty to apply for interim bails on account of the current situation, which shall also be taken into consideration by the appropriate courts and the said petitions shall be decided in accordance with law.”

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