Agusta Westland helicopters, the AW169, bottom, the AW139, center and the AW189, top, manufactured by Agusta Westland (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)  

AgustaWestland Chopper Scam: Christian Michel Extradited To India

Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in politically-sensitive Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, was brought to India late Tuesday night following his extradition by the U.A.E, the Central Bureau of Investigation said.

Michel landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on a Gulfstream jet at 2235 hours, official sources said. The operation code-named ‘Unicorn’ was carried out under the guidance of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and coordinated by interim CBI Director M Nageswar Rao, the CBI spokesperson said.

The Dubai government had cleared the extradition of Michel after his appeal against the move was turned down by a court there.

Michel, 57, was behind bars in Dubai since he was arrested and sent to custody pending the legal and judicial procedure in the U.A.E. The Dubai Court of Cassation dismissed the two objections filed by Michel’s lawyers and upheld the appellate court’s decision to consider the possibility of extraditing him to the competent Indian authorities.

Christian Michel entered into criminal conspiracy with co-accused persons and in pursuance thereof, the public servants had abused their official positions by reduction of service ceiling of the VVIPs helicopter from 6000 metres to 4500 metres and a contract for an amount of 556.262 million euros was awarded to AgustaWestland International Ltd, U.K. by the government of India through Ministry of Defence on 08.02.2010 for the procurement of 12 VVIP/non VVIP helicopters
CBI Spokesperson Abhishek Dayal

The Enforcement Directorate, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received 30 million euros (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland. Michel is one of the three middlemen being probed in the case, besides Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa, by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Both the CBI and the ED had notified an Interpol red corner notice against him.

On Jan. 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 423 crore by it for securing the deal.

The CBI has alleged that there was an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (approximately Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on Feb. 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.

Also read: Former Indian Air Force Chief SP Tyagi Granted Bail In AgustaWestland Case