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AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case: Dubai court orders middleman Christian Michel's extradition to India

The order is being seen as a major shot in the arm to the agencies-- Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ED -- probing the case.

Reported by: India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Updated: September 19, 2018 7:41 IST ]

File photo of  Christian Michel

A Dubai court has ordered for the extradition of British national and alleged middleman Christian Michel in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal case, PTI reported quoting official sources on late Tuesday. Michel was arrested in the UAE last year and was facing extradition proceedings in the country. He is wanted in India for allegedly organising bribes in exchange for a contract for VVIP helicopters.

The sources told the news agency that the court pronounced the judgement after India had officially made the request to the gulf nation sometime back, based on the criminal investigations conducted in this case by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The full contents of the order against Christian Michel James (54) are expected to be known by tomorrow as the legal pronouncement is in Arabic and is being translated in English at the behest of Indian authorities, they said. The order is being seen as a major shot in the arm to the agencies-- Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ED -- probing the case.

The AgustaWestland case involves a 2007 contract signed by the government for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters for use by top leaders, including the President, Prime Minister and former prime ministers.In 2013, the government scrapped the contract amid allegations that the supplier AgustaWestland, whose parent company Finmeccanica ran into allegations of bribe-giving in Italy, had paid kickbacks in India.

Former Air Chief SP Tyagi, 72, was arrested in 2016 over allegations that he accepted bribes to tailor specifications at the instance of his cousins. He became the first ever military chief - former or current - to be arrested.

The ED, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received ‎EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

The money was nothing but "kickbacks" paid by the firm to execute the 12 helicopter deal in favour of the firm in "guise of" of genuine transactions for performing multiple work contracts in the country, it had said.

Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI. Both the agencies have notified an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) against him after the court issued a non-bailable warrant against him.

Michel has been extensively interviewed by the Indian media in Dubai in the past and both the agencies want him to join the probe to take the case forward.

The ED had also brought on record, in the chargesheet, that the three middlemen "managed to" make inroads into the Indian Air Force (IAF) to influence the stand of the officials into reducing the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 metre to 4,500 metre in 2005. 

AgustaWestland became eligible to supply the dozen helicopters for VVIP flying duties after this change.

The ED investigation found that remittances made by Michel through his Dubai-based firm Global Services to a media firm he floated in Delhi, along with two Indians, were made from the funds which he got from AgustaWestland through "criminal activity" and corruption being done in the chopper deal that led to the subsequent generation of proceeds of crime.

On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.

(With inputs from PTI)

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