India has approached Britain for extraditing a middleman in the heart of a bribery scandal in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, the government said on Thursday amidst a raging slugfest between the ruling BJP and the Congress.
Minister of state for external affairs VK Singh told the Rajya Sabha that India’s request for Christian Michel’s extradition is under consideration of the “concerned British authorities”.
Michel, 54, allegedly played a key role in swinging the Rs 3,727-crore deal for AgustaWestland to supply 12 VVIP choppers in 2010. The deal was scrapped by the previous UPA government in 2014.
AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, allegedly paid more than `375 crore as bribe to secure the deal. The British wheeler-dealer came under the scanner after an Italian court convicted two former officials of the defence giant for corruption.
The names of five Congress leaders, including party chief Sonia Gandhi, figured in the recent judgment by the court, triggering a political row in India.
While the BJP is trying to corner the Congress over the deal, the opposition party is accusing the Centre of character assassination and political vendetta.
A non-bailable arrest warrant was issued by a special CBI court against Michel in September while the global police, Interpol, issued a red corner notice against him in November on the agency’s plea. The CBI had also sent a request to the British government in January for his “provisional arrest”.
In 2013, CBI registered a case over alleged bribes paid by a British firm to Indians to clinch the deal while the ED initiated a money-laundering probe in 2014.
Michel is among three European middlemen accused of tweaking key technical specifications by then government authorities to favour AgustaWestland.