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Who is Christian Michel, the middleman in AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal

Michel, who was detained in UAE at India’s behest, is wanted for allegedly organising bribes in exchange for a 2007 contract for the purchase of 12 luxury VVIP helicopters for use by top leaders.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2018 00:13 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Christian Michel,AgustaWestland,VVIP choppers
A file photo of AgustaWestland (AW101) VVIP Airforce Helicopter. (PTI)

British national Christian James Michel, wanted in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal case, has been extradited from United Arab Emirates to India following an order by a court in Dubai.

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

He is one of three middlemen being probed in the case by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The other two are Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.

How Michel got the deal for AgustaWestland

The CBI in its first chargesheet in the AgustaWestland scam, filed in September last year, alleged that Michel through his companies — Global Services FZE (Dubai) and Global Trade and Commerce Services (London) — received Euro 42.27 million in the garb of service and consultancy contracts in 2010-11.

The chargesheets says when the Agusta deal was being signed, Michel visited India 25 times and stayed in Hotel Ashoka and Claridges in Delhi and Windsor in Bengaluru.

According to investigative agencies, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for the chopper contract. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013.

On April 10, 2008, Michel sent a report from Mumbai to Giuseppe Orsi and other officers of AgustaWestland mentioning that Augusta had succeeded in flight trials distancing itself from the competition.

But, he warned that if commercial bids of Sikorsky (the competitor) were opened, then Agusta would be in trouble since Sikorsky would submit bids in Dollar rates.

“He reported that he was consciously and deliberately trying to disqualify the competition at that stage only so that the financial bids of Sikorsky are not opened,” says the charge sheet.

CBI probe revealed that Sikorsky was disqualified during trials and its unopened commercial bid submitted to the ministry of defence in February 2007 was returned.

According to the charge sheet, it was found that Sikorsky had quoted price amounted to Rs 2,228 crore for supply of 12 choppers whereas Agusta quoted Rs 3,966 crore which was approximately 80% more than the rate quoted by Sikorsky.

Michel procured confidential documents and secret information from the defence ministry and the Indian Air Force and sent them to Agusta executives through one of his associates in Mumbai.

The documents sent by him included evaluation report of S-92 chopper and the contents of a technical committee report of the IAF prepared in February 2007.

He also had information about movement of files of the deal in the ministry of defence and details of cabinet committee on security deliberations.

Personal details

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

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 CBI statement.

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.

The Accused

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.

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

On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for the VVIP choppers.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 00:13 IST