Agusta deal accused Christian Michel to be in CBI custody for 5 days, orders Delhi Court
Christian James Michel, 57, the British businessman accused of bribery in the 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, will remain in CBI custody for 5 days, a Delhi Special Judge ordered on Wednesday on a request by the investigating agency. The court said he can meet his lawyers for an hour, twice every day.
The court’s decision came after the CBI told the judge that the agency needed to interrogate him to trace the 37 million Euros that he allegedly received for the deal.
The CBI had pitched for a 14-day custody, telling the court that it needed to confront the man they believed could help them unravel the money trail.
Michel was earlier taken to CBI headquarters following a medical check-up after being brought to India, in a move that many see as a significant win for the Indian government. He reached the CBI headquarters at 1:38am.
The extradition coincides with a visit to the UAE by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have filed cases against him. The move is even more significant because Michel is a British national being extradited to India from Dubai.
Watch: Delhi Court orders Agusta deal accused Michel to be in CBI custody for 5 days
The BJP said the extradition in the case from the UPA era is a diplomatic victory for India and could spell “serious trouble” for the Congress’s “first family”, referring to Gandhis while at the same time asserting that the development was an unequivocal affirmation of the Narendra Modi government’s seriousness in fighting corruption.
The extradition was anticipated as Dubai’s highest court on November 19 approved India’s request to extradite Michel, subject to the move being approved by the UAE’s justice minister. Officials said Swaraj’s presence in Dubai for a meeting of the India-UAE Joint Commission helped push the process.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Anil Dhasmana and India’s ambassador to the UAE, Navdeep Singh Suri, also played key roles, the officials said.
Last month, the Dubai Cassation Court effectively ended the legal challenge to Michel’s extradition by upholding an appellate court’s decision to extradite him though he pleaded ‘not guilty’.
Michel is wanted for commercial fraud, bribery and money laundering in connection with the deal to purchase 12 helicopters for the Indian Air Force from the company then known as AgustaWestland. Michel has refuted the allegations.
Alleged irregularities in the AgustaWestland deal were repeatedly raised by the Bharatiya Janata Party during its successful 2014 general elections campaign. Michel’s extradition comes at a time when the Opposition has been targeting the government over a deal for the purchase of Rafale combat aircraft.
“Christian Michel James will be examined with respect to his involvement in the case and confronted with documents recovered during raids by Swiss Authorities and received by CBI through LRs indicating the bribes paid by Mr Christian Michel James to the Indian authorities for securing the contract for supply of VVIP helicopters from M/s AgustaWestland,” CBI said in a statement.