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VVIP chopper deal accused Christian Michel being extradited to India, departs from Dubai

Christian Michel’s lawyer, Abdul Moneim Bin Suwaidan had argued in court that Indian authorities did not follow “proper procedures” when requesting the extradition.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2018 22:32 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
VVIP,chopper,Christian Michel
India had cancelled the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal after the bribery allegations surfaced in 2014. (HT File Photo)

British national Christian Michel James, wanted in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal case, is being extradited to India and has departed from Dubai airport on a private plane, according to a report in Khaleej Times.

Details of flight have not been disclosed due to the sensitive nature of the case, the newspaper said.

The move comes after the Court of Cassation in Dubai upheld a lower court order that stated that Michel could be extradited to India.

Michel, who was detained at India’s behest, is wanted in India for allegedly organising bribes in exchange for a 2007 contract for VVIP helicopters for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters for use by top leaders, including the President, Prime Minister and former prime ministers.

India had cancelled the chopper deal after the bribery allegations had surfaced in 2014.

A CBI statement said a team lead by A Sai Manohar, joint director of CBI, has been to Dubai for the extradition process, which was being done under the guidance of national security advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval and coordinated by CBI director M Nageshwara Rao.

Earlier, Emirati lawyer Abdul Moneim Bin Suwaidan of Bin Suwaidan Firm for Advocates and Legal Counsels, who is representing Michel, had submitted documents showing that courts in Switzerland and Italy had ruled on not to extradite his client, Khaleej Times reported.

Contesting the lower court’s ruling, the lawyer argued that the Indian authorities did not follow “proper procedures” when requesting the extradition. “The request should have been filed by India’s ministry of home affairs rather than its ministry of external affairs.”

He contended that the procedure was “flawed” and in violation of the clauses of the international treaty signed between the UAE and India.

“Accordingly, the lower court order should be reversed,” he argued.

The CBI has long suspected that Michel was the conduit to route bribe money to political contacts in India. There were two other middlemen in the deal who had allegedly influenced the bureaucrats to swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.

In September last year, the CBI had filed a chargesheet against former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi and eight others — Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev alias Julie, Infotech legal advisor Gautam Khaitan, former Air Force vice-chief JS Gujral, former AgustaWestland chief executive officer Bruno Spagnolini, former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi and alleged middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Guido Haschke and Christian Michel — in the case.

Three companies — Finmeccanica, its UK-based subsidiary AgustaWestland, and Mohali-based IDS Infotech — were also charged.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigated the money-laundering aspect of the case and charged 34 Indians, foreign nationals and companies this July.

“ED’s investigation revealed that the kickbacks were paid by AgustaWestland for bagging the VVIP chopper deal in India through two different channels. One channel was handled by middleman Christian Michel James and the other channel was handled by Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke,” an ED official had told Hindustan Times in July on condition of anonymity.

The CBI said Michel has been described as a historical consultant of AgustaWestland with technical operational knowledge of the aircraft, the military bases and the pilots.

The agency said that Michel’s father, Wolfgang Michel was also a consultant of AgustaWestland for India in the 1980s and had reportedly acted as a mediator in other countries too.

“Wolfgang Michel promoted three companies Entera Corporation, UCM International Trading Limited and Ferro-Imports Limited. Between 1987 and 1996, Entera Corporation reportedly earned more than £2 million from India,” said the statement.

The CBI said Michel’s mother Valerie Fooks is running a trust in the name of Queda Educational Foundation which is reportedly providing financial assistance to beneficiary students from India to advance their education in foreign countries.

First Published: Dec 04, 2018 22:29 IST