AgustaWestland ‘middleman’ Christian Michel sent to five-day CBI custody
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AgustaWestland ‘middleman’ Christian Michel sent to five-day CBI custody

New Delhi, Dec 5: A city court on Wednesday ordered to five days CBI custody, Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore Agusta Westland chopper deal, extradited from the United Arab Emirates.

The 57-year-old British national was today produced at New Delhi's Patiala House Court before Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar.

Indian Air Force had floated a proposal in 1999 for acquisition of 12 VVIP helicopters to ferry top government functionaries. The deal was granted to AgustaWestland in 2010 for over Rs 3,600 crore. It was alleged that technical specifications had been tweaked including lowering of the service ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000 m to 4,500 m to help AgustaWestland win the bid for which bribes were allegedly paid.

The trail

Central Bureau of Investigation registered an FIR on March 14, 2013 and named former Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi and 12 other individuals as accused apart from four companies. Besides Tyagi family, three middlemen Michel, Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke were included as accused.

Michel was among the alleged middlemen who brokered the deal. Investigators claim he paid bribes to officials and politicians to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland, the British arm of Italian firm Finmeccanica.

After CBI, Directorate of Enforcement Directorate also began investigations in this matter under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

CBI alleged that an amount of Euro 42.27 million was paid by the Finmeccanica Group to the firms of Christian Michel James as kickbacks or bribe without undertaking any work against the receipt of such amount… (He) 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…indicating the bribes paid by him to the Indian authorities for securing the contract for supply of VVIP Helicopters from M/s AgustaWestland.

It is further alleged in the matter that while Gerosa and Haschke paid off members of the Tyagi family Michel was dealing with Ministry of Defence bureaucrats and top politicians. Indian agencies were chasing Michel.

Scam surfaces

CBI took up the probe in the matter and sought Michel for interrogation. He had been deliberately evading his presence from the investigating agency and escaped from India.

In this matter, extradition of Michel became possible after six years of his alleged involvement in the purchase of VVIP helicopters surfaced.

Special CBI Court had issued a non-bailable warrant of arrest against Michel on September 24, 2015 and on its basis Interpol put out a Red Corner Notice on November 25, 2015, against him. He was finally arrested by the UAE authorities in February last year.

CBI had filed a charge sheet in the court on September 1, 2017 against Michel and 11 others. A request for extradition of Michel was forwarded to the UAE Authorities on March 19 last year.

A Court of Dubai on November 19, 2018, upheld the decision for extradition of Michel.

CBI alleged that Michel had entered into as many as 12 contracts through two of his Firms namely, Global Trade & Commerce Ltd. London and Global Services FZE, Dubai, UAE with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Westland Helicopters UK to legitimise the illicit commission.

Special judge Arvind Kumar, after hearing the submissions on behalf of the probe agency, passed an order to five days CBI custody to Michel. (UNI)