India Agency Questioning ‘Middleman’ in AgustaWestland Contract
Agusta Westland helicopters, the AW169, bottom, the AW139, center and the AW189, top, manufactured by Agusta Westland (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)  

India Agency Questioning ‘Middleman’ in AgustaWestland Contract

(Bloomberg) -- India’s federal investigation agency is questioning British national Christian James Michel for allegedly paying bribes to authorities to secure a contract for the supply of helicopters from AgustaWestland.

  • Michel, 57, an alleged ‘middleman’ in the deal, was extradited to India from the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday after his appeal was turned down by a court there, the Central Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

Key Insights

  • The development may help boost the image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a strong leader whose government brings fugitives back to India, ahead of general elections in April.
  • It will also allow Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to score a political point against the opposition Congress party, who was in power when this alleged scandal took place.
  • Modi’s administration has itself been accused by Congress of violating multiple rules in the purchase of Rafale aircraft from France.
  • India’s defense deals have been marred by corruption scandals, including one that helped drive the Congress Party out of power in 1989.

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  • Michel will appear in court on Wednesday in New Delhi, where the agency will formally seek his custody, said CBI spokesman Abhishek Dayal.
  • Michel’s involvement in the chopper deal surfaced in 2012, where he allegedly acted as a ‘middleman’ to swing the deal in favor of Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland and made illegal payment to Indian authorities.
  • Following a 15-month corruption investigation, India scrapped the 2010 deal to buy 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland in January 2014.
  • Michel was arrested by UAE authorities in February 2017.
  • He entered into as many as 12 contracts through two of his firms with Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Westland Helicopters UK etc. to legitimize the illicit commission on the procurement of VVIP helicopters by India’s defense ministry, CBI alleged.

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