BJP delighted as AgustaWestland ‘middleman’ Christian Michel extradited to Delhi
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BJP delighted as AgustaWestland ‘middleman’ Christian Michel extradited to Delhi

New Delhi, Dec 4: In a high profile operation overseen at the very top level under the guidance of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and coordinated directly by interim CBI chief M Nageshwar Rao, British national Christian Michel James, a key accused in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case, has been "extradited by UAE authorities" and brought to Delhi on Tuesday night.

“Wanted fugitive criminal Christian Michel James who has been avoiding criminal proceedings in India in AgustaWestland Case has been extradited," a CBI source said.

Security was tightened around CBI office late Tuesday night, sources said.

A special team led by A Sai Manohar, CBI Joint Director, has been sent to Dubai for the purpose.

The developments happened on a day, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a two-day visit to UAE and high level interactions.

"EAM Sushma Swaraj called on Crown Prince of #AbuDhabi, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Both expressed satisfaction at the pace of our bilateral relations in a range of areas, attesting to our comprehensive strategic partnership," MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar tweeted about one of the many engagements Ms Swaraj had on the day. However, sources would not link External Affairs Minister's visit to the extradition process as it was a time taking process in itself but the "good relations" always help expedite in these processes.

In fact, India officially made the request to the Gulf nation in 2017 for his extradition, based on the criminal investigations conducted in the case by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

Michel was already under detention in Dubai.

Sources said 54-year-old Michel was among the alleged middlemen who brokered the deal and who, investigators claim, paid bribes to officials and politicians to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland, the British arm of Italian firm Finmeccanica.

There was a minor legal tussle but the Court of Cassation had upheld a lower court order earlier that Michel could be extradited.

In 1999, the Indian Air Force came up with a proposal for the acquisition of 12 VVIP helicopters to ferry top government functionaries. A year later, the deal was granted to AgustaWestland for over Rs 3,600 crore. However, this was followed by allegations that technical specifications had been breached and tweaked — including lowering of the service ceiling of the helicopter from 6,000 m to 4,500 m —to help AgustaWestland qualify and finally and win the contract.

The BJP during its opposition days had charged that huge bribes were allegedly paid.

In 2013, the FIR named former IAF chief S P Tyagi and 12 other individuals as accused, apart from four companies.

These individuals included members of the Tyagi family and three middlemen — Michel, Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.

The ED too later plunged into investigations under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Sources said there was 'no vindictive' politics in the entire case. "Initially the investigation conducted by Italian authorities had also indicted Michael Christian", a source said.

Extradition of Christian Michel is a shot in the arm for the Narendra Modi government. Now that he will be available to the CBI, the ‘real’ bribe-receivers of the AgustaWestland bribes scandal will be exposed,” Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said. (UNI)