Agusta Westland deal middleman extradited to India in operation under NSA’s guidance: CBI

Agusta Westland deal middleman extradited to India in operation under NSA's guidance: CBI
Agusta Westland deal middleman extradited to India in operation under NSA's guidance: CBI

The alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal Christian James Michel is being extradited to India in an operation under the guidance of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, the CBI said Tuesday.

The operation is being coordinated by interim CBI Director M Nageswar Rao and a team of the agency’s officers led by Joint Director Sai Manohar was in Dubai to bring him back, it said.

The UAE government had cleared the extradition of 57-year-old Michel after his appeal against the move was turned down by a court there.

His involvement in the chopper deal allegedly surfaced in 2012 as middlemen for swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland and making illegal payment of commission/kickbacks to the Indian authorities, CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said.

Michel was wanted for investigation but he escaped and avoided joining the probe, he said.

A charge sheet was filed against him in September last year.

“An open non-bailable arrest warrant dated September 24, 2015, was issued by the special judge, CBI cases, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi,” he said.

On the basis of this warrant, a Red Corner Notice was issued by the Interpol which led to his arrest in Dubai in February 2017, he said.

“Michel, who has been avoiding criminal proceedings in India in AgustaWestland case, is being extradited by the UAE authorities to India. Under the guidance of Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor (NSA), the entire operation is being coordinated by In-charge Director CBI M Nageswara Rao,” he said.

Michel was behind bars in Dubai since he was arrested and sent to custody pending the legal and judicial procedure in the UAE.

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.

It is alleged that he entered into criminal conspiracy with co-accused persons which included the then IAF chief SP Tyagi and his family members 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.

The reduction in the ceiling made AgustaWestland eligible for a contract worth  556.262 million Euros was awarded to it by Defence Ministry on February 08, 2010 for the procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters.

He is allegedly described as a “historical consultant” of AgustaWestland Helicopters, UK with technical operational knowledge of the aircraft, the military bases and the pilots, the spokesperson said in a statement.

Michel worked with the company since the 1980s and even before his father had also been a consultant of the company for the Indian Territory, it said.

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 Defence Ministry at different levels including retired and serving IAF officials, the agency said.

Michel allegedly shared the information collected from the IAF and the ministry with his associate(s), who used to transmit the despatches through FAX to the other counterparts sitting in Italy and Switzerland, the CBI said.

“In an aforesaid manner, he was updating and informing the management of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland namely Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini and others about his efforts in India for securing supply contract of VVIP Helicopters,” the statement said.

In July 2006, a meeting was held in Cascina Costa, Italy where AgustaWestland’s commercial manager Renzo Lunardi had proposed that Christian Michel will join other middlemen Ralph Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa in carrying out “scouting and monitoring activities” with regard to the acquisition of helicopters in India, keeping in view of his “knowledge of Indian military operational mechanism”, it said.

During the above meeting, they had negotiated a comprehensive fee equal to 7 per cent of the supply contract amount to cover the expenses and fees of both of them.

He allegedly entered into 12 contracts through two of his firms London-based Global Trade and Commerce and Dubai-based Global Services FZE with Finmeccanica to camouflage and legitimise the alleged bribe received by him for clinching the deal, the CBI said. PTI