A United Arab Emirates (UAE) court on Thursday ordered the extradition of Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman and UK national in the controversial Rs. 3,600 crore AgustaWestland Chopper deal.
It is a big win for Indian agencies- the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) who are probing the case and now will likely focus on the political links in the scam, if any.
Who is Christian Michel James and what is his role in Agusta Westland Chopper Scam?
At the time of AgustaWestland scam, Christian Michel was a well- known British consultant who was very active in the Indian defence sector. It was alleged that he was hired by AgustaWestland for the deal of supplying 11 helicopters to India in 2010.
The CBI and ED probing the case filed in the chargesheet that Michel had received EUR 30 million (approx. 225 crore) by Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for bribing Indian politicians, defence ministry, bureaucrats and the then Indian Air Force Chief SP Tyagi to facilitate the deal and make it look genuine transaction.
Apart from Christian Michel, Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa are also being probed as middlemen in the deal by CBI and ED. Three companies ? Finmeccanica, its UK-based subsidiary AgustaWestland, and Mohali-based IDS Infotech ? were also charged.
According to a report published in PTI, the ED has also brought on record that the three middlemen “managed to” make inroads into the Indian Air Force (IAF) to influence the stand of officials to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters in 2005.
A Red Corner Notice was issued by Interpol against Michel in 2015 on the request of CBI and ED. India has been trying to secure Michel extradition for one year.
Michel was arrested in February 2017 by UAE authorities and since then extradition proceedings have been going on.
Earlier in July 2018, Michel was granted bail in Dubai after which he accused Indian investigators of pressurizing him to name UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in return of a clean chit in the multi-crore scam.
CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal had said in July, 2018 that the investigation agency had not influenced Michel to extract confession. The extradition proceedings against the fugitive were going on in the UAE and request for extradition was being followed up.