A Dubai court has ruled in favour of the extradition of British national and alleged middleman Christian Michel to India, in the Rs. 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal case.
The ruling was pronounced by a Dubai Court on Tuesday based on an official request made by India. The request for Michel's extradition was based on the investigations conducted in the Augusta Westland case by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.
The full contents of the order against Christian Michel are expected to be known soon as the legal pronouncement is in Arabic and is being translated in English at the behest of Indian authorities.
Christian Michel was arrested in February 2017 by the UAE authorities. He was placed under detention after India asked for his extradition through Dubai’s court. Michel is being seen as a key player who could potentially spill the beans on Indian politicians and bureaucrats who were paid bribes to authorise the Rs 3600 helicopter deal for VVIPs. Officials see Michel’s extradition as being key to unraveling the chain of payoffs in the case. “Only he could tell who is ‘AP’, ‘Pol’, ‘Bur’ and ‘AF’ in the note he got written for paying bribes,” said an officer according to a report in the Times of India.
Michel was allegedly given $42 million by Anglo-Italian firm – AgustaWestland – for bribing Indian politicians, defence ministry officials, IAF officials including allegedly its then chief SP Tyagi and others for swinging the contract in favour of the company for supply of 12 VVIP choppers.
Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the ED and the CBI.
If Michel is indeed extradited, then it will be seen as a victory for the NDA government which has accused the Congress as receiving payoffs in the chopper deal. In July this year, CBI refuted the allegation made by Michel's lawyer that Michel was being put under pressure by Indian and UAE authorities to give a confession and name Congress leader Sonia Gandhi as a conspirator in his statement.
But the CBI had refuted this charge, saying "Christian Michel was arrested in February 2017 by the UAE authorities. He was not arrested this year as claimed by his defence lawyer. CBI team has neither examined the fugitive in the UAE nor influenced him to extract confession.”
On January 1, 2014, India had revoked the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of kickbacks of Rs 423 crore paid by it to secure the deal.