Due process was followed by India to secure extradition of AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel from the UAE, the Government of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated on Thursday.
He has been allegedly one of the middlemen in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.
The Ministry had two requests from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the extradition of Michel from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which were then forwarded to the Indian mission in the Gulf nation, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a media briefing.
“After following due process and exhaustion of judicial process, Christian Michel was extradited to India,” the official said.”The matter is being handled by the CBI.”
Michel, a British national, was wanted for his role in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case. He was brought back to India from the UAE on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, a Delhi court sent Michel, who is also under medical observation, to five days in CBI custody.
The External Affairs Ministry has received a request from the British High Commission for consular access to Michel, said the MEA spokesperson, adding: “The matter is being examined by the Ministry.”
In an oblique reference, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that the accused, who has taken UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s name, would spill the beans on the deal during the UPA government’s tenure.
The Prime Minister was addressing an election meeting in Rajasthan’s Sumerpur, as he used the “namdaar” jibe to attack Rahul Gandhi and said those leaders whose four generations ruled the country had to knock the doors of court.
“You must have read in today’s newspapers about VVIP helicopter scam of thousands of crore. You would be aware about a letter of Madam Sonia Gandhi. When we came to power to find out the files, we kept searching for it and finally found a ‘razdar’ (one who knows all secrets),” Modi reportedly said.
What is Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case all about?
Earlier this year in July, the Indian authorities could not succeed in the extradition from the UAE courts in the alleged Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.
In January, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing Michel. Both the ED and the CBI had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused.
In 2017, a Red Corner Notice (RCN) was issued against Michel by the Interpol on a request by the CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians involved in the scam — Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.
According to the investigative agencies of India, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013.
In its chargesheet, the CBI had named former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi, alias Julie, the then IAF Vice Chief J.S. Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan as the four Indians involved in the scam. The chargesheet mentioned Khaitan as the “brain” behind the deal, a news agency reported.
Others named in the chargesheet included Giuseppe Orsi, the ex-chief of Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of AgustaWestland, apart from middlemen Michel, Haschke and Gerosa.
In 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF, over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.
Tyagi and the other accused, the CBI alleged, received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract. The FIR mentioned charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and those under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The CBI registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013,
Tyagi, as per the CBI, allegedly took bribes of several crores from AgustaWestland through the middlemen — and a complex set of companies in several countries — to change the specifications of the contract. The operational flight ceiling of the choppers was reduced from 6,000 metres, as originally proposed, to 4,500 metres and the cabin height was brought down to 1.8 metres.
The twin modifications were allegedly meant to rig the deal in favour of AgustaWestland, which eventually walked away with the order to supply the 12 choppers for the Communication Squadron of the IAF for ferrying the President, the Prime Minister and other VVIPs.
The CBI probe revealed that several payments were made to the Tyagis by Haschke, Gerosa and Michel.
Last year, Tyagi, who was IAF chief from 2004 to 2007, his cousin and Khaitan were arrested in December by the agency.