Image Credits: PTI/Twitter - @dir_ed
In a major update in the AgustaWestland case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday has junked the claims of Christian Michel, the British national who was allegedly the middleman in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal. The ED has hit back and said that Michel's claims of being denied consular access are mere pressure tactics. Christian Michel, who is accused in the case has been held in India's Tihar Jail since December 2018 after his extradition from the UAE. This development in the AugustaWestland case comes amid India's ongoing efforts for the deportation of fugitive Indian diamantaire and economic offender Mehul Choksi
The ED has claimed that Michel's legal team's claims are 'pressure tactics'. The legal team of the accused has expressed concerns over his health and well-being. Earlier, Christian Michel's family has sought the UK government's intervention in the case. The ED on its part has maintained its stand and informed that the accused has been 'duly defended' by a team of lawyers in New Delhi as well as the UK who are well versed with the law. Moreover, the agency has also said that Michel's lawyer Rosemary Paterzi has defended him abroad as well.
Further countering Michel's claims, the ED has asserted that he has also been advised by his brother who is a barrister at law in the United Kingdom. This comes after the Consulate's letter to the court which mentioned that Christian Michel is being illegally detained. However, the claims are being denied by the ED that has maintained that these are pressure tactics. Moreover, the ED has also furnished the name of lawyers who have defended Michel and said that the accused 'miserably failed to prove his case'.
"The applicant miserably failed to point out a single provision in the Protocol Handbooks of Government of India which basically sets the procedure for communication and privileges given to diplomatic missions and consular posts," the ED reply stated.
Earlier last week, the lawyers and family of the AgustaWestland scam accused Christian Michel reached out to the UK government to press India for his release from Tihar jail. During an online press conference, the legal team comprising of Toby Cadman, François Zimeray and Aljo K Joseph and Michel's sons Alaric and Alois sought a fair trial and expressed concern about his well-being. Zimeray also informed that he can raise the issue with the EU Commission as Michel was a European Union citizen at the time of his extradition from the UAE to India.
The family and lawyers also remarked that they would again petition the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) which had deemed his detention as "arbitrary".The accused had also written a 35-page letter to UK PM Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Home Secretary Priti Patel seeking intervention in his case. He alleged that his extradition to India was motivated by "political reasons".