Jailed Christian Michel Allowed 15-Minute Weekly Calls To Family, Lawyers

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Christian Michel was earlier granted consular access by the Indian government.

New Delhi:

Christian Michel, alleged AgustaWestland middleman, has been allowed to speak to his family and lawyers for 15 minutes every week by a special CBI court. The External Affairs Ministry had granted consular access to the British national — a key accused in a high-profile chopper scam — two days ago.

Mr Michel has been lodged at Tihar Jail in Delhi since his extradition and arrest last month.

The 54-year-old accused had moved an application seeking permission to make international calls to his relatives and legal counsel earlier this month. The court, in response, asked the prison superintendent to submit a report on January 14.

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Officials from the British embassy visited Mr Michel after he was granted consular access by the Indian government. "Our staff are supporting a British man who is detained in India, and have visited him to check on his welfare," the British High Commission in India told news agency ANI.

Mr Michel is one of three alleged middlemen being investigated in the VVIP chopper scam for allegedly organising bribes for Indian politicians and bureaucrats to push for the AgustaWestland deal, involving 12 luxury choppers, during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule. He was placed under arrest by the Enforcement Directorate, which has the authority to investigate economic offences and arrest anybody whose involvement is suspected.

The Enforcement Directorate had stirred up a storm on December 30 by informing a court that the British national had mentioned one "Mrs Gandhi" and "the son of the Italian lady" during the course of the questioning, hinting that Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother — UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi — were involved in the alleged scam. The central agency, however, did not mention the context in which this was said.

The Congress termed it as a ruse to defame its top leaders ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Mr Michel was extradited to India by the Dubai administration on December 4, after which the Enforcement Directorate took him into custody. He was produced in Delhi's Patiala House Court seven days later.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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