Friday, 22 February, 2019

AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal: Middleman Christian James Michel extradited to India

AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal: Middleman Christian James Michel extradited to India AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal: Middleman Christian James Michel extradited to India
Melinda Barton | 05 December, 2018, 15:14

The VVIP chopper scam involves the deal to purchase 12 luxury choppers for the use by the President, Prime Minister, former prime ministers and other VIPs when Manmohan Singh's Congress-led coalition was in power in Centre.

British national Christian Michel James, the middleman wanted in Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, was extradited to India on Tuesday night from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Michel, who is presently at the CBI headquarters at south Delhi's Lodhi Road area, will be produced before a designated CBI court where the investigative body will seek his remand to interrogate him in custody.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Michel was questioned at the CBI headquarters for most parts of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and that he would be produced in Patiala House Court later in the day.

While the entire operation was being coordinated by interim director M. Nageswara Rao, a team lead by A. Sai Manohar, the Joint Director of CBI had been accompanying Michel from Dubai.

A charge sheet was filed against him in September past year.

Khaitan is an advocate and one of the accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal scandal while Michel acted as a middleman in the same dubious deal.

"Extradition proceedings were held before a UAE court against James... on 11 November 2018, the court of Dubai upheld the lower court's decision for extraditing James to India to face legal proceedings". At least 12 phoney contracts were signed between his firms and AgustaWestland to legitimise approximately Rs 295 crore paid as kickbacks to secure the deal.

The CBI has alleged that 57-year-old Michel paid commissions or kickbacks to the Indian authorities for swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland, a chopper manufacturing company in Italy.

On the basis of the non-bailable arrest warrant, Interpol too issued a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against him. The ED had also claimed in the chargesheet that the three middlemen managed to make inroads into the 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.

Surjewala accused the Modi government of indulging in a "cover-up conspiracy" to hide its role in helping and promoting the "banned company" AgustaWestland and its parent company, Finmeccanica.

India cancelled the Rs 3,600 crore deal with AgustaWestland in January 2014.

In coming days the worries of Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel will be when they will be confronted with Michel by CBI and ED. He was allegedly also in touch with officials from the PMO, SPG, CVC and defence ministry.