AgustaWestland Chopper Scam: Christian Michel Extradited To India

Christian Michel

Christian Michel

James, who in previous interviews with Indian newspapers denied any wrongdoing, was detained in Dubai in February 2017 following an Indian arrest warrant and an Interpol notice. While BJP claimed it as a big win for the Narendra Modi government, Congress' Salman Khurshid targeted CBI of looking for someone who could implicate leaders of his party. He would be brought to India late tonight and would be produced before a special CBI court in New Delhi to face criminal proceedings in the case.

The investigating agency CBI said Michel's extradition took place "under the guidance" of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The contract was frozen in February 2013 after allegations surfaced that Rs 3,600 crore was paid as a bribe.

He was allegedly a frequent visitor to India and was operating as a middleman for defence procurement through a wide network of sources cultivated in the IAF and the Defence Ministry at different levels, including through retired and serving IAF officials, the agency said. Individuals named in the FIR include Finmeccanica officials Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini, the Tyagi family, alleged middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, advocate Gautam Khaitan, formerly associated with Aeromatrix, and its CEO Praveen Bakshi.

According to CBI, because of his expertise in engineering, James was a part of the conspiracy to reduce the flying height for the VIP helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres. Although he managed to wriggle out from the legal tussle in UAE, the CBI requested for extradition on 19 March 2017 through diplomatic channels.

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Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, in a statement, alleged that facing "imminent defeat" in state polls, Prime Minister Modi and the BJP government were seeking to "weave a web of lies" and construct a "mesh of deception to hoodwink" the people of India in the chopper case. Renzo Lunardi, the then Commercial Manager of AgustaWestland, proposed his appointment and it was cleared by Mr. Orsi, as alleged.

During that meeting in Italy, they had negotiated a comprehensive fee equal to 7 per cent of the supply contract amount to cover the expenses and their payments.

Initially, the investigation conducted by Italian authorities indicted him for offences of worldwide bribery and corruption, following which the CBI too started a probe against him. He was arrested in the UAE past year on the basis of an Interpol notice and was out on a bail.

The CBI has alleged that 57-year-old Michel paid commissions or kickbacks to the Indian authorities for swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland, a chopper manufacturing company in Italy.

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