Operation Unicorn: How Ajit Doval looked over Christian Michel's extradition
The ruling BJP may have registered a big win with the extradition of Christian Michel from Dubai, just as the Congress faces a mounting trouble. Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs. 3,600 crore AgustaWestland scam, was brought to India on Tuesday, and CBI took over his custody. The operation, codenamed Unicorn, was overlooked by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, premier investigating agency confirmed.
Understanding what the scam is all about
Michel is accused of bribing politicians, officials, and journalists, to swing the deal for 12 VVIP helicopters in AgustaWestland's favor. Co-conspirators, allegedly including former-IAF Chief SP Tyagi, managed to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters. This made AgustaWestland eligible for the contract and on February 08, 2010 the company was paid €556.262 million for the same.
Michel visited India many times
Michel, who worked with the company since the 1980s, had technical knowledge about the aircraft. AgustaWestland's commercial manager Renzo Lunardi had in 2006 suggested that Michel should work with other middlemen, Ralph Guido Haschke, and Carlo Gerosa, as he knew Indian military operational mechanism. He is said to have visited India many times to meet senior IAF officers, retired personnel and politicians.
In 2012 he was named, in 2017 arrested in Dubai
It was only in 2012 that his name cropped up in the case. He tried to evade justice but on September 24, 2015, a special judge issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him. Following the order, a Red Corner notice was issued by Interpol in February 2017. Subsequently, he was arrested in Dubai and was lodged in jail. His pleas against extradition were rejected.
After his arrest, Doval started his work
Michel's lawyers argued against his extradition twice but Dubai Court of Cassation noted it would be best if he is handed over to competent Indian authorities. Once the decision was secured, Doval got to the action. A report in Livemint claims, he and Navdeep Suri, Indian ambassador to UAE, took the intense diplomacy route for months. The entire operation was kept a secret.
India didn't want to battle legal loopholes later
Over the last one year, Doval visited UAE and made many phone calls. Suri was constantly in touch with UAE government. New Delhi was clear that extradition process should follow all the laws, the report added. Since Michel is a British national, the government wanted that all legal options are open for him so that no loophole can be exploited later.
Why is this case so important
His extradition was delayed due to four days national holiday in the UAE, but the event has set a precedent of sorts as a British national has been brought to India for interrogation from Dubai. Giving Doval due credit, CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said, "Under the guidance of Ajit Doval, the entire operation was coordinated by in-charge Director CBI M Nageswara Rao."