AgustaWestland charge-sheet leak: ED says leaked document is not original

Only three people have the original charge-sheet, according to ED

PTI12_5_2018_000130A Graft, aircraft: Christian Michel being taken to the Patiala House court on December 5 | PTI

The controversy surrounding the leakage of the supplementary charge-sheet by the Enforcement Directorate against alleged middleman Christian Michel in the politically sensitive AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case has taken an interesting turn with sources in the agency claiming that the leaked charge-sheet isn’t the original copy. Only three people have the original charge-sheet—the judge, the investigating officer of the ED and the special public prosecutor.

The drama apparently played out much before the ED filed its charge-sheet in court. If sources involved in the investigations are to be believed, the ED suspected foul play before the filing of its charge-sheet and is believed to have taken the court into confidence about its fears a day before filing the same.

It is learnt that one page of the charge-sheet had certain corrections which went as part of the final charge-sheet to the court and is not found in the one that is available with the media.

As the defence counsel took up the leakage matter, alleging that it was an attempt to politicise the case, the ED on Saturday submitted certain details in a sealed cover to the court which is believed to shed further light on the events. It also asked the court to issue notice to the media house from where the alleged charge-sheet first came out.

On April 11, the court will take cognizance of the matter again and it is likely that how the suspected leakage happened would be revealed then.

“This incident may set a precedent that those who have leaked the charge-sheet and been part of it should not only be exposed but also face the law,” said an official. The ED had faced a similar situation in the INX media case and had apparently kept in mind to crack down on leakage of documents.

While the ED has sought to distance itself from the leakage of the charge-sheet to the media, Michel's defence lawyers are insisting that the ED charge-sheet was leaked even before it could reach Michel, raising suspicions over the intent of the agency probing the politically sensitive case.

The issue that may be debated now is if the entire charge-sheet remains the same even if certain pages were amended, does it change the fact that the details were leaked.

After filing of the charge-sheet, Michel has denied that he named anyone in connection with the deal. These include names of senior Congress leaders from Ahmed Patel to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and references to senior bureaucrats, IAF officials and journalists.

However, sources said all the details in the charge-sheet are based on Michel's own words which are in the form of a handwritten statement. Michel is learnt to have written more than 150 pages as part of his statement to the ED under section 50 of the PMLA Act.

It may be noted that when the statement of an accused is recorded by the ED, it is handwritten and signed by him/her. Unlike the CBI, where the statement of the accused is not admissible in court and is recorded by the agency sleuths, a confession made before the ED sleuths under section 50 is admissible in court.

If Michel has indeed written a statement which forms the basis of many allegations that surface in the charge-sheet, it is likely to play a role in the court trial and may just be the beginning of a political slugfest between the Congress and BJP in the election season.