#AgustaWestlandScam: Chopper deal 'middleman', Christian Michel, being extradited to India
Alleged AgustaWestland chopper scam middleman, Christian James Michel, who is wanted by several Indian investigative agencies, is reportedly being extradited from the United Arab Emirates to India tonight. He was taken to Dubai airport earlier today and has boarded a flight to India, reported Khaleej Times. Passing an administrative order, the Dubai authorities have paved the way for Michel's extradition to India. Here's more.
Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs. 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam, is wanted by CBI and Enforcement Directorate. Dubai officials passed an administrative order earlier today and Indian authorities were also present to complete the formalities. After extradition, he will be produced before the Patiala House Court, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court, and a special CBI judge's court in Delhi.
The Rs. 3,600cr AgustaWestland deal was initiated under the UPA government to buy 12 AW-101 choppers from AgustaWestland for transporting VVIPs. These helicopters were intended to replace the old, Russian-made Mi-8s. The demand for the new choppers arose in 1999. According to the Indian Air Force, Mi-8s were plagued by issues, including lack of night-flying capabilities and low service ceiling.
Michel is one of the three alleged middlemen in the AgustaWestland scam, the other two being Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. Helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leonardo SpA (formerly Finmeccanica), had allegedly hired Michel to help facilitate the deal for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to India signed in 2010. Michel allegedly organized bribes in exchange for the contract.
According to ED's 2016 charge-sheet against Michel, he received €30mn (approximately Rs. 225cr) in kickbacks from AgustaWestland for executing and making the chopper deal look "genuine". ED also said the middlemen made "inroads" into the Indian Air Force to influence the officials' stand to reduce the service ceiling of required helicopters from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters in 2005, after which AgustaWestland became eligible.
ED's investigation shows that through his Dubai-based firm, Global Services, Michel made remittances to a Delhi-based media firm he had floated along with two Indians. These remittances were made from the money received through "criminal activity" and "corruption" in the VVIP chopper deal.
The Interpol had, in 2015, issued a Red Corner Notice against Christian Michel on the request of the CBI and ED. Later in February 2017, the UAE Government had arrested the alleged VVIP chopper scam "middleman" after the CBI's efforts and based on the Interpol's Red Corner Notice. Since his arrest, 54-year-old Michel has been behind the bars in Dubai.