AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel extradited to India

New Delhi: Christian Michel James, a British national and a middleman, on Tuesday was extradited to India, a development that comes as a boost to Indian agencies investigating the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took him under his custody as soon as he arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport around 11 p.m. in a special aircraft. James, 57, was accompanied by some CBI, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Ministry of External Affairs officials. After the immigation procedure, he will be taken to the CBI headquarters at south Delhi’s Lodhi Road area.

The central probe agency in a press note said the entire extradition operation was conducted under the guidance of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and coordination of interim CBI Director M. Nageswara Rao.

A team lead by Joint CBI Director A. Sai Manohar had been to Dubai to extradite James, who has been avoiding criminal proceedings in India in AgustaWestland case.

The action comes after the Court of Cassation in UAE had in November upheld a lower court order which said that Michel could be extradited to India.

According to the report, James was kept under detention at the Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as per the Indian government’s request. The extradition is undertaken in coordination with the Interpol and the CID.

James is one of three middlemen being probed in the case by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the scam.

In January, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing James. 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.

Last year, a Red Corner notice was issued against James 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 Indian investigative agencies, James 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.

The ED officials earlier had said that bribes to James were paid through a web of companies located abroad and in India on the pretext of payment for consultancy work. James also used his Dubai-based firm Global Services FZE as a conduit for money.

In its chargesheet, the CBI had named former Indian Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, 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.

Others named in the chargesheet included Giuseppe Orsi, the former chief of Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of AgustaWestland, apart from middlemen James, Haschke and Gerosa.

On January 1, 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.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and the other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract.

(Agencies)

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